A new study from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine has found a connection between common household chemicals, quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats,", and birth defects, despite the fact that experts have never found evidence of harm.

Quats are often used as disinfectants and preservatives in household and personal products such as cleaners, laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo and conditioner, and eye drops. The research declared a link between quats and neural tube birth defects in both mice and rats and immediately sent out a press release, hoping mainstream journalists who love weak correlational studies will believe that mice are little people.

The authors studied two commonly used quats: alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride. These are often listed on ingredient lists as ADBAC and DDAC, respectively, and are valued for their antimicrobial and antistatic properties, as well as their ability to lower surface tension. They found that exposure to these chemicals resulted in neural tube birth defects in rodents, which in entry-level studies is considered an analog for birth defect as spina bifida and encephaly in humans.

Why the results seem dubious to anyone outside environmental fundraising departments and the offices of sue-and-settle groups like Stephen Tillery or Robin Greenwald: They found that mice didn't even need to be dosed with the chemicals to see the effect. Even using quat-based cleaners in the same room as the mice was enough to cause birth defects. That's a homeopathy finding, not a science one.