Alkyl ester quaternary ammonium compounds (ester quats) are used extensively in fabric rinse conditioners. It is important to document in the literature the outcome of historical studies that were performed to assess the risk of adverse skin effects associated with their use.
(1) To document the outcomes of historical studies performed to evaluate the skin sensitizing potential of two ester quats (the di-[hardened tallow fatty acid] ester of 2,3-dihydroxypropyl-trimethyl ammonium chloride [HEQ] and the dialkyl ester of triethanol ammonium methyl sulfate [TEA-Quat]) and (2) to demonstrate that these ester quats lack marked skin-sensitizing potential in humans, such that they do not present a risk of contact allergy for consumers who use fabric rinse conditioners.
Each material was assessed in the human maximization test in a panel of 25 volunteers. Diagnostic patch testing was also performed with each material in a population of 239 patients undergoing routine patch testing for suspected allergic contact dermatitis. These data are also considered in the context of an exposure-based quantitative risk assessment.
Neither HEQ nor TEA-Quat was found to cause skin sensitization under the conditions of the human maximization test. No evidence of contact allergy to the materials was found among the relatively small population assessed by diagnostic patch testing.
This study provides evidence that HEQ and TEA-Quat lack substantial skin-sensitizing potential in humans. Taken together with similar data for other ester quats, it suggests that compounds in this class are unlikely to be significant human contact allergens.