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Quaternary Ammonium Compounds


Q: What are Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs or QUATs)?

A: QACs are a group of chemicals used for a variety of purposes including as preservatives, surfactants, antistatic agents and as active ingredients for disinfectants and sanitizers.

Q: What products are they used in?

A: QACs can be found in commercial and consumer products such as disinfectant wipes, disinfectant sprays and liquids, laundry disinfectants and sanitizers, and surface cleaners.  These products are used in households, hospitals, medical, food service, food and beverage processing, and other institutional sites. Quats may also be used in cosmetics, lotions, contact lens cleaning solution and nasal sprays as a preservative, and even used in some first aid sprays to help prevent infection from minor wounds.

Q: Why are they important ingredients?

A: Quats are excellent antimicrobial agents. By themselves, they are odorless, non-staining and non-corrosive to metals when used according to directions. Products formulated with quat active ingredients have been rigorously tested using guideline studies and shown to be effective at killing a wide variety of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Q: Are QACs safe?

A: Canadians can be confident that these products are safe when used according to label directions. These common and effective ingredients are used in approved products that provide protection to Canadians through proper use of disinfectants in the home, by medical staff in hospitals and in other institutions such as nursing homes and schools. Quats have been studied extensively using stringent testing standards and guidelines to demonstrate to global regulatory authorities that they can be utilized safely when used as directed. The science behind quat safety is periodically re-reviewed by these global regulatory authorities and, when necessary, additional data is generated to keep the information up to date with most current requirements and address any new questions that arise over time.

Q: Are products containing QACs regulated by Health Canada?

A: Yes. Products including disinfectants, pest control products and cleaners are regulated by Health Canada. Disinfectant products are considered drugs and regulated under the purview of the Food and Drug Act and Regulations, while pest control products, including sanitizers, are regulated at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency under the Pest Control Products Act. These products undergo rigorous scientific evaluation as part of their pre-market assessment. Domestic cleaning products regulated under the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act are labelled with appropriate symbols and directions to support safe use under the Consumer Chemical and Containers Regulations 2001.

Disinfectants and cleaning products intended for the workplace are regulated under the Hazardous Product Act and Regulations and require labelling to identify risks associated with chronic exposure. Pest control products, disinfectant and cleaning product regulatory frameworks include robust incident reporting requirements. Health Canada collects and analyses this data on a continuous basis to identify safety signals and trends related to product use.

Q: Should I be concerned about antibiotic resistance?

A: No. While a recent study suggests that quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) used in specific products may have adverse environmental and human health impacts and links to antimicrobial resistance, the paper has many flaws. The policy recommendations stemming from this study did not take into account the robust and science-based regulatory frameworks that govern these ingredients and products in Canada. The paper offers numerous “policy recommendations” that are not applicable to the Canadian legislative and regulatory landscape. The recommendations focus on reduction of use without considering Canadian safety measures already in place. Other statements in the media also suggest links to antimicrobial resistance, but this discourse is common among all approved and effective antimicrobials. It is important to note that antimicrobial resistance should be differentiated from antibiotic resistance and that quats are not used as antibiotics. No microbial resistance has been reported against Quat based disinfectants or sanitizers when they are used as directed on the product label.

Air Care Products


Q: Are air care products safe for consumers to use?

A: Yes, air care products are safe to use. Consumers can confidently use air care products to make their homes and workplaces more pleasant. Air care products meet and exceed all Canadian regulations for consumer products and the ingredients that they contain.

Q: What safety tests do manufacturers conduct in the case of air care products?

A: Our member companies conduct extensive safety assessments prior to introducing a new air care product. These assessments include ingredient reviews, exposure and risk measurement, consumer/in-home testing and post-market follow-up.

Q: What Canadian regulations govern air care products?

A: In Canada, there are many types of legislation and regulation governing these products. All ingredients used in air care products must be listed on Environment Canada’s Domestic Substances List (DSL) prior to being sold. Any new substances used in air care products are subject to assessment and approval by Health Canada and Environment Canada through the New Substance Notification Regulations (NSNs) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act(CEPA). Air care products, like all consumer products, must also meet the requirements of the Consumer Chemicals & Containers Regulations (CCCR 2001) under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

For additional information on the Chemicals Management Plan, please see  the Chemicals Management Plan Progress Reports, which will be published twice a year.









Mix-at-Home Cleaners


Q: Do mix-at-home cleaners contain chemicals?

A: All cleaners, whether commercially formulated products or mix-at-home recipes, are composed of chemicals. These chemicals be food ingredients extracted directly from a plant or chemicals synthesized in a laboratory.

Q: Are the chemicals in mix-at-home recipes non-toxic?

A: All chemicals, including common table salt (NaCl), are toxic at some exposure. Toxicity is the level of exposure at which something can be harmful. Commercially formulated cleaning products are evaluated for both intended and unintended exposures, so that non-toxic levels of exposure can be clearly identified. Labels provide use directions and safety information that contribute to the safe use of the product.

Q: What does safety information have to do with grandma’s household cleaning recipes?

A: Nostalgia for “the good old days” shouldn’t take precedence over the important assurances that come with today’s commercially formulated cleaning products. These products undergo extensive safety and performance evaluations before they are marketed. The data from these evaluations enable manufacturers to stand confidently behind their products. That’s why their names, and often a toll-free phone number, are printed on cleaning product packages.

The individuals or organizations promoting “alternative” recipes should be able to support their recommendations. Consumers should be able to ask them, for example, whether the recipe has been tested under conditions where it will be mixed with the other “chemical” products used for cleaning; what treatment is advised if the mixture is accidentally splashed in the eye or swallowed; and whether the effect of the recipe on surfaces to be cleaned has been evaluated.

Things to Consider About Choosing a Mix-at-Home Cleaner

Has the recipe been tested for cleaning purposes?
Do you have complete directions for safe and effective use?
Are you aware of any safety precautions for mixing the recipe or combining with other products?
Do you know how to treat accidental exposures?
Are there any special instructions for safe disposal?
Is the recipe as cost effective as a commercially formulated cleaning product?

Q: How can I decide whether to use a homemade mixture or a commercially formulated cleaning product?

A: Considerations of safety and performance should come first when thinking about using homemade mixtures.

With mix-at-home recipes, responsibility for product label information falls on the person following the recipe. That means that the consumer should prepare a label that includes the names and amounts of ingredients; emergency treatment guidelines; safety procedures for mixing, combining with other products, usage, etc.; and complete directions for use. Poison control centres have extensive data on commercially formulated cleaning products, but may have difficulty handling accidental exposures to homemade mixtures unless they have information on the formula.

One final word on safety: Some recipes suggest that boiling water be used in combination with “alternative” ingredients. The practice of carrying quantities of boiling water from one location to another in a home, especially a home with young children, raises serious safety concerns.

Q: Am I helping the environment by using an “alternative” cleaner?

A: Probably not. The vast majority of commercially formulated cleaning products are water soluble, are disposed of safely down the drain into a municipal or home wastewater treatment system, and cause no harm to the environment. Extensive lab testing and “real world” monitoring, as well as compliance with applicable government regulations, ensure the environmental safety of cleaning products.

Q: Will using mix-at-home recipes save me money?

A: Some suggested “alternatives” may actually be more expensive to use than commercially formulated cleaning products. This is particularly true for food items which must be manufactured to a high level of purity. For example, cream of tartar, which is sometimes recommended as a metal cleaner, is 12 times more expensive per unit weight than aluminum cleaner. Consumers should compare unit prices, figuring the cost per job, and also note how often the job must be repeated. Something else to remember: some homemade mixtures may leave a residue that attracts new soil, so the job has to be done more frequently, adding to the cost.

Because “alternatives” are generally not as efficient as commercially formulated cleaning products, using them often requires extra effort. In addition to spending more time on cleaning, consumers may use more product and more hot water to get the job done, which can also mean extra costs; this is food for thought when figuring the ultimate costs of recipes.

Q: Are mix-at home recipes effective at disinfecting surfaces?

A: Cleaning products help remove dirt and germs from surfaces, but only disinfectants actually kill disease-causing microorganisms.

Disinfectants are reviewed and approved by Health Canada. Any product labelled as a disinfectant has undergone extensive testing of its germicidal properties. These products are regulated and approved by Health Canada, and they display Drug Identification Numbers (DINs) on their labels.

Studies have shown that mix-at-home recipes that are suggested as alternatives to disinfectants are less effective than commercially formulated disinfectant cleaners, both in reducing microbial contamination and in removing soil. In fact, most mix-at-home recipes have no disinfectant properties at all. Particularly when there are health-related reasons for using a disinfectant, such as on a cutting board that might be contaminated with Salmonella or on a surface that has been in contact with someone who is sick, consumers should recognize that only disinfectants that have been approved by Health Canada and given a DIN have been tested for their ability to kill germs.

In areas vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, such as kitchens, bathrooms and children’s play areas, it’s especially important to disinfect properly. The use of an approved disinfectant according to the label instructions will ensure that germs are eliminated.



“Natural” Cleaning Products


Q: What do the terms “synthetic” and “natural” really mean?

A: All of the chemicals used to make the ingredients that go into cleaning products are found in nature. Very few chemicals extracted from plants or the earth are used without further processing to obtain ingredients that perform a cleaning function. Thus, the term “natural” to describe a final product can be misleading.

For example, claims for “natural” cleaners usually refer to the surfactant, the product’s primary cleaning ingredient. Almost all the products used for personal cleansing, laundering, dishwashing and household cleaning are surfactant-based. Surfactants are chemicals that reduce the surface tension of water, so the water can quickly wet a surface and soil can be loosened and removed. Surfactants are made from petrochemicals (derived from crude oil or natural gas) or oleochemicals (derived from fats and oils). Some types of surfactants can be made from either raw material source. Petrochemicals are often termed “synthetic” materials, while oleochemicals are sometimes called “natural.” Both have “natural” sources, since crude oil is extracted from the earth and oleochemicals come from plants or animals.

Whatever their source, surfactant raw materials have to be chemically converted, or synthesized, before they can become useful ingredients in cleaning products. In its final form, a surfactant based on oleochemicals is similar to the same surfactant based on petrochemicals. This similarity enables manufacturers to use either or both types of surfactants in their cleaning products. Availability, cost, ease of formulation, and desired product form and characteristics are the deciding factors.

Q: Are all surfactants biodegradable?

A: Surfactant-based cleaning products are designed to be used with water and disposed of down the drain. There they combine with other wastes for treatment in either a municipal treatment plant or a household septic tank system. During treatment, microorganisms biodegrade surfactants and other organic materials, ultimately breaking them down into carbon dioxide, water and minerals. Any small amount of surfactants that remain after treatment continues to biodegrade in the environment.

Extensive laboratory testing and “real-world” monitoring studies have shown that the major surfactants biodegrade quickly and thoroughly, and do not present a risk to organisms living in the environment. The slight differences in biodegradation rates that can be shown in laboratory screening tests between petrochemical and oleochemical surfactants are not generally thought of as meaningful in the environment, since both are significantly removed during wastewater treatment.



Pest Control Products


Q: What are pest control products?

A: Pest control products, also known as pesticides, are organisms, chemicals and devices that are designed to control, destroy, attract or repel pests. They can be man-made or found in nature. Pest control products include the following:

  • algaecides that control the algae in swimming pools
  • rodenticides that control rats and mice
  • insecticides that control wasps, hornets, white grubs and ants
  • insect repellents that keep mosquitoes away
  • herbicides that control weeds like poison ivy and dandelions
  • fungicides that control plant disease on fruits, vegetables and lawns

Q: Why do we need pest control products?

A: There are two major benefits of using pest control products – protecting your health and protecting your home:

  • Insects like cockroaches and ants can damage and contaminate food supplies.
  • Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and lice can carry disease and cause allergic reactions as well as causing general discomfort. These pests can be serious public health problems if they are not controlled.
  • Rodents can destroy crops, carry disease, cause structural damage to our homes and negatively affect public health.
  • Weeds reduce the quality and safety of grassy areas and reduce benefits like the cooling effect they cause.
  • Plant diseases can destroy or affect the quality of crops, gardens and fruit trees. They can also affect the quality of sports fields and golf courses.
  • Carpenter ants and termites can weaken the structural integrity of your home or cottage.
  • Algae can invade your swimming pool.
  • Weeds, insects and diseases can destroy your lawn, trees and ornamental plants.

Q: What can I do to prevent bug problems?

A: There are a few simple things you can do to discourage bugs before they become a nuisance:

  • Close food packages securely and keep kitchen counters free of crumbs and dirty dishes.
  • Empty the trash regularly and secure the lids on the cans.
  • Don’t leave pet food out in dishes overnight or for extended periods.
  • Repair holes or cracks that may allow pests to enter your home.
  • Keep screens or windows closed to prevent pests from finding and/or creating nests in your home.

Q: How are pest control products regulated in Canada?

A: The registration process for pest control products in Canada is considered to be one of the most rigorous worldwide. In 2006, Canada introduced new legislation with many requirements, such as added safety factors and taking into account vulnerable populations.

To meet the strict requirements for registration in Canada, industry is required to submit extensive scientific technical data for screening and review by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) under the new and revised Pest Control Products Act.

Q: What does the PMRA do?

A: The PMRA reviews scientific data and prepares a full risk assessment, which includes the following elements:

  • any possible health effects on humans including embryos, infants, children, teenagers and adults
  • any possible effects on wildlife species including fish, birds, earthworms or insects
  • the rate of degradation in air, soil and water
  • whether or not the product leaches through the soil to water sources
  • potential bystander exposure
  • research to show that the product works on the intended pest

Q: Are children’s special characteristics taken into account when pesticides are evaluated for their risk to health?

A: Yes. The PMRA conducts a thorough assessment of pesticides before their use is permitted in Canada. These assessments are carried out in order to ensure that pesticides do not pose a health risk to Canadians. They incorporate a special focus on, and increased safety factors for, sensitive sub-populations, including children.

Q: What is “integrated pest management”?

A: ”Integrated pest management” refers to broadly defined pest management measures intended to effectively manage pest populations to acceptable levels. It includes using non-chemical control measures, such as redesigning and repairing structures, improving sanitation, employing pest resistant plant varieties, and altering watering and mowing practices, and where necessary the judicious use of pest control products according to product labels.



Consumer Products


Q: Are consumer products safe?

A: Yes! Consumers can be confident that the products they buy have a beneficial effect on our health by reducing the spread of germs, allergens, and making our homes and workplaces more pleasant. When consumers purchase cleaning products, they bring home not only a mixture of ingredients, but also years of the manufacturer’s experience and expertise on the safe and effective use of each product.

Q: Does the federal government regulate consumer products?

A: For all consumer products formulated by manufacturers, they use substances that are available for use in Canada and listed on the Domestic Substances List (DSL) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Often referred to as “existing substances”, the DSL was required by law to be scrutinized against the most modern science. The results would provide a list of substances that may need further review. It is important to note that everyday substances such as Vitamin A and vinegar are on the list of 4,000 substances that may need further investigation. It has been determined by industry and government scientific studies that products containing substances on the list are safe when used according to product directions.

The Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), announced by the Government of Canada in December 2006, began with the Industry Challenge Program to review 193 highest priority substances. These substances were grouped into 12 “batches” for review, to be completed over five years. The next phase of the CMP was announced October 3, 2011, when the Government of Canada renewed its commitment to Canada’s world-leading Chemicals Management Plan. Approximately 1,000 additional substances will be reviewed in the next five years and the rest by 2020, including through the Substance Groupings Initiative. The third phase of the CMP continued in 2016 and has been a success for all Canadians.

More information on the Chemicals Management Plan, the Industry Challenge and the Substance Groupings Initiative can be found at the Government of Canada website. For additional information on the Chemicals Management Plan, please see  the Chemicals Management Plan Progress Reports, which will be published twice a year.

If a manufacturer wishes to use a truly new substance in a consumer product, they are subject to assessment through the New Substances Notification Regulations (NSNR) under CEPA. Since 2001, all substances new to Canada that will be used in Food & Drugs Act products are also subject to CEPA’s New Substances Notifications (NSNs).

Cleaning products such as disinfectants are also regulated by the same act. Products that claim to kill germs must meet efficacy requirements and guidelines established by Health Canada, must be reviewed and approved by Health Canada, and must carry a DIN registration number on their label. Those that make sanitizing claims are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), also administered by Health Canada.

The Consumer Chemicals & Containers Regulations (CCCR 2001) under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act regulates all labelling for these products.

In Canada, all ingredients in consumer products such as soaps and detergents, disinfectants, sanitizers, household cleaning products and pest control products are governed by various pieces of legislation and regulation.

Q: Where can consumers find information about the ingredients in their products?

A: CCSPA announced a voluntary industry-led initiative on April 2, 2008 providing customers easier access to ingredient information in air care products, cleaning products, automotive products, polishes and floor maintenance products. Our members will make this information available January 1, 2010, through a variety of means, e.g., product labels, the manufacturer’s website. Click here for more information about the details of the program. In 2011, we amended the programto add greater transparency for fragrances, dyes, and preservatives. This program is effective January 1,2012.

Q: What are the benefits of consumer products?

A: Good Health equals Good Hygiene. Soaps and detergents are essential to personal and public health. Through their ability to loosen and remove soil from a surface, they contribute to good personal hygiene; reduce the presence of germs that cause infectious diseases; extend the useful life of clothes, tableware, linens, surfaces and furnishings; and make our homes and workplaces more pleasant.

Regular cleaning products do a good job of removing soil, but only disinfectants or disinfectant cleaners kill the germs that can cause many illnesses. Germs can be spread to other surfaces on dirty cleaning cloths and sponges.

Surfaces like kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, toilet seats and children’s toys may be contaminated with bacteria even when they’re not visibly soiled. Did you know that the average kitchen dishcloth can contain 4 billion living germs?

Q: How do consumer products help Canadians with allergies and asthma?

A: Cleaning with cleaning products removes allergens! When done properly and regularly, cleaning stops allergens from accumulating, which helps minimize allergy and/or asthma symptoms.

The common allergens in our homes (animal dander, cockroaches, dust/dust mites, mold/mildew, and pollen) are a serious problem for people with allergies and asthma. Allergens are often airborne and may be widespread, making them difficult to avoid. They collect in bedding, furniture, carpeting, and wherever there’s warmth and moisture. If they’re not removed, they’ll accumulate, causing an even greater threat.

Q: What about allergies to peanuts - do consumer products help?

A: Yes they do! A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirmed that the peanut allergen was undetectable after participants cleaned their hands with liquid soap, bar soap or commercial wipes. The allergen was also easily removed from household surfaces by most common household cleaners.

Q: How are consumer products labeled in Canada?

A: To ensure consumers use the products appropriately, the label tells consumers about the products – how to use it, any specific hazards, precautionary text and disposal. For consumers, this is one of the most important features of the label.

Health Canada administers the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (CCCR) 2001 regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which includes precautionary symbols and first aid statements.

Q: Are there environmental effects when using these products?

A: Consumer products are formulated to be used with water and “go down the drain” into wastewater treatment systems (municipal sewage treatment plants or septic tank systems). To assure that products are safe for the environment, manufacturers evaluate the impacts of product ingredients in wastewater treatment systems, streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Scientific principles that are widely recognized by the technical and regulatory communities are used to assess the risk to the environment of these impacts.

Q: Is the packaging of consumer products environmentally friendly?

A: Manufacturers of cleaning products have been leaders in reducing packaging waste and encouraging sound waste disposal practices. Advances in technology have resulted in products that are more concentrated: products that combine two functions in one; products with refill packages; and packages that use recycled materials. For example, concentrated products need less energy to manufacture and transport and require less packaging; and multifunctional products eliminate the need for separate packages. Plastic and paperboard that would otherwise be thrown away become usable materials through recycling.

CCSPA reminds consumers that the environmentally wise way of handling any household cleaning product is to buy only the amount that can be used; to use it all up or give it away; and, if it must be disposed, to dispose of it properly. As a rule of thumb, products designed for use with water should be disposed of by pouring down the drain; solid products such as scouring pads should be put into the trash.

For more information about concentrated products, click here.