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Researcher Terry Hrubec found startling evidence that a common chemical in disinfectants can cause birth defects in mice. She explains the science, describes the ubiquitous use of quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), and helps listeners understand the numerous concerns over this everyday disinfectant, especially with increased use as a COVID precaution. Listen and learn

  • What effect Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides (BACs) had on the embryology of mice in her lab,
  • What’s the primary route of exposure for these compounds, 
  • How numerous elements of human development might be affected, including fertility, and
  • What are additional QAC unknown factors and how she is designing a study to find the answers. 

Terry Hrubec is a professor of anatomy and embryology at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. In an experiment testing the effect of a pharmaceutical on development, she stumbled on increased neural tube defects on her control group of mice. After finding the lab had suddenly changed their cleaner, she realized the cause.

She tells this story and how it has lead to an in-depth look at the common ingredient in household cleaners known as alkyl quaternary ammonias. She helps listeners understand how to find the ingredient on labels and how often this ingredient might be used in everyday spaces, from hospitals to food production equipment.

The overuse of these disinfectants due to COVID concerns is especially alarming. This along with the many unknowns of these compounds, such as how long they remain in the body, lend an urgency to her work. She describes some basics of embryological development, from the first cells dividing and differentiating, how these compounds effect that phase, and how our country assesses the safety of chemicals. She comments that “chemicals are assumed to be safe, unless proven otherwise.”

Furthermore, 4,000 new chemicals are registered every day. What does that mean for the approval process? Listen in to find out why she’s worried and what she’s doing about it.

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