Quaternary ammonium compounds in soil: implications for antibiotic resistance development
Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are surface-active, antimicrobial, high production volume (HPV) chemicals with a broad application in agriculture. This review provides a comprehensive overview of (1) predicted and measured concentrations of QACs in soils including their analysis, (2) sequestration mechanisms in soils based on their physicochemical properties and chemical structure, and (3) implications of concentrations and fate of QACs in soils for the proliferation of antibiotic resistance in the environment. Predicted environmental concentrations (PEC) for QACs that are applied to soils with manure are in the order of 3.5 mg kg−1. Based on literature data, the median PEC of QAC in sewage sludge amended soils is 25 µg kg−1. The positively charged QACs are mainly sorbed to clay minerals. We propose that QACs might be sequestered in the interlayer regions of layered silicates in clay-rich soils, reducing their acute toxicity, while increasing their persistence. The release of sequestered QACs from soil can still potentially maintain concentration levels that are sufficient to develop antibiotic resistance in the environment.