Examining environmental safety of key disinfecting, sanitizing ingredients

14 November 2022
In new research, Ramboll scientists find antiseptic compounds are unlikely to cause adverse ecological impacts at concentrations found in the environment.


Phyllis Fuchsman

Senior Managing Consultant
T: +1 440 321 1320

During the Covid-19 pandemic there was a greater need for antiseptics, and use of three topical antiseptic compounds – benzalkonium chloride (BAC), benzethonium chloride (BZT) and chloroxylenol (PCMX) – increased before and during the pandemic due to the phaseout of other antimicrobial ingredients (such as triclosan) in soaps and other disinfecting and sanitizing products.   

Ramboll worked with the American Cleaning Institute to assess the environmental safety of BAC, BZT and PCMX. Recent exposure levels were characterized based on environmental monitoring data supplemented by modeling, while future exposures were modeled based on a hypothetical triclosan replacement scenario. Adverse ecological effects are unlikely under the scenarios evaluated.

The new research was recently published in the paper, Ecological Risk Analysis for Benzalkonium Chloride, Benzethonium Chloride, and Chloroxylenol in US Disinfecting and Sanitizing Products in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

The paper evaluates the ecological risks posed by BAC, BZT and PCMX as used in disinfecting and sanitizing products such as antiseptic hand washes, disinfecting laundry detergents and healthcare antiseptics. The analysis focuses primarily on environmental exposures in the US, with supplemental international data as needed to address limitations in US monitoring data.

“The Covid-19 pandemic was happening in real time as we were doing our research – making the assessment even more relevant but also making it harder to estimate ever-changing environmental concentrations of sanitizer ingredients,” says Phyllis Fuchsman, a co-author of the research and Senior Managing Consultant at Ramboll.

"The assessment framework we developed provides a sound basis to interpret environmental data for the ingredients we studied, if their concentrations change in the future.”



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