Ophthalmologists are concerned about a new American study that suggests a common preservative in eye drops could increase a person's risk for serious diseases.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, examined chemical compounds known as "quats" in 1,600 products found in most households. For those who didn't know, "quats" is short for "quaternary ammonium compounds." These compounds are usually used as antimicrobials in numerous products.
The scientists discovered that these quats actually disturbed normal mitochondrial function in their animal subjects. They also found that quats sent off harmful estrogen signals.
This finding is a major concern because damage to normal mitochondrial function has been linked with many health problems. Just a few diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction include Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The particular quat eye doctors are concerned about is called benzalkonium chloride (BAK). BAK is routinely used as a preservative in commercial and prescription-grade eye drops.
While more research needs to be done, the study authors suggest everyone avoid eye drops with BAK if possible. They also recommend eye doctors prescribe eye drops without BAK.
Professor Sandipan Datta, the lead author on this study, told reporters that BAK can easily damage the ocular surface and penetrate into the retina. He also said that "caution should be exercised while using or prescribing quat-containing eye drops."
A few other researchers involved in this study include Guochun He, Alexey Tomilov, and Sunil Sahdeo. All the professors in this study are members of either the Department of Molecular Bioscience or the Department of Environmental Toxicology at UC, Davis.
The journal Environmental Health Perspectives published this entire study in its August 2017 edition. You can find this article under the title "In Vitro Evaluation of Mitochondrial Function and Estrogen Signaling in Cell Lines Exposed to the Antiseptic Cetylpyridinium Chloride."