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Antimicrobial agents have become an essential tool in controlling the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and guidelines on their use have been issued by various public health agencies. Through its Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides, the US Environmental Protection Agency has approved numerous surface disinfectant products for use against SARS-CoV-2. Despite their widespread use and range of associated health hazards, the majority of active ingredients in antimicrobial products, such as surface disinfectants, lack established occupational exposure limits (OELs) to assist occupational health professionals in characterizing risks from exposures to these chemicals. Based on established approaches from various organizations, a framework for deriving OELs specific to antimicrobial agents was developed that relies on a weight-of-evidence evaluation of the available data. This framework involves (1) a screening-level toxicological assessment based on a review of the existing literature and recommendations, (2) identification of the critical adverse effect(s) and dose-response relationship(s), (3) identification of alternative health-based exposure limits (HBELs), (4) derivation of potential OELs based on identified points of departure and uncertainty factors and/or modification of existing alternative HBELs, and (5) selection of an appropriate OEL. To demonstrate the use of this framework, a case study is described for selection of an OEL for a disinfectant product containing quaternary ammonium compounds (quats). Three potential OELs were derived for this product based on irritation toxicity data, developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) data, and modification of an existing HBEL. The final selected OEL for the quats-containing product was 0.1 mg/m3, derived from modification of an existing HBEL. This value represented the lowest resulting value of the three approaches, and thus, was considered protective of irritation and potential DART.


G Scott Dotson, Jason T Lotter, Rachel E Zisook, Shannon H Gaffney, Andrew Maier, Jonathan Colvin. Setting occupational exposure limits for antimicrobial agents: A case study based on a quaternary ammonium compound-based disinfectant. Toxicology and industrial health. 2020 Sep;36(9):619-633

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PMID: 33241765

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