The isolated cis-compound is used primarily in cosmetic applications, with a maximum permitted concentration in the EU of 0.2%. The mixed product (cis- and trans-) is used in a wider range of formulations such as: emulsifiable metal-cutting fluids; latex and emulsion paints; liquid floor polishes and floor waxes; glues and adhesives.
Quaternium-15 along with formaldehyde has been banned in the EU since 2017 and a bill is under consideration in the US.
Quaternium-15 is an allergen, and can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals. Many of those with an allergy to quaternium-15 are also allergic to formaldehyde. At low pHs it would be expected to release significant amounts of formaldehyde due to acid hydrolysis via the Delepine reaction.
Allergic sensitivity to quaternium-15 can be detected using a patch test.
It is the single most often found cause of allergic contact dermatitis of the hands (16.5% in 959 cases). In 2005–06, it was the fourth-most-prevalent allergen in patch tests (10.3%).
Some consumer cosmetics contain quaternium-15 for its antimicrobial properties. The American Cancer Society states that although quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen in laboratory test animals at relatively high doses, because the amount of formaldehyde released from these products is low, it is unclear that avoiding quaternium-15 in cosmetics provides any health benefits. Even so, Johnson & Johnson announced plans to phase out its use of quaternium-15 in cosmetic products by 2015 in response to consumer pressure.
^Warshaw, E.; et al. (2007). "Contact dermatitis of the hands: Cross-sectional analyses of North American Contact Dermatitis Group Data, 1994–2004". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 57 (2): 301–314. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2007.04.016. PMID17553593.
^Zug, KA; Warshaw, EM; Fowler, JF Jr; Maibach, HI; Belsito, DL; Pratt, MD; Sasseville, D; Storrs, FJ; Taylor, JS; Mathias, CG; Deleo, VA; Rietschel, RL; Marks, J (2009). "Patch-test results of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group 2005–2006". Dermatitis. 20 (3): 149–60. doi:10.2310/6620.2009.08097. PMID19470301.