But remember, its not just pollutants that can damage our furbabies; things like lawn products can hurt them too. Who spends the most time rolling around on those artificially green lawns with all those weed and bug killers? Dogs and cats, of course. So while pollutants are terrible things please keep in mind that we can protect our furbabies from some things.
Thanks to the Environmental Working Group for letting me know about their recent report on taxic contamination in pets. How sad!
On the other hand, Dogster Eddie is leading the way for all dogs, cats and other pets to take a stand (or sit) for the environment. I look forward to hearing more from Pets for the Environment!
I just wanted to give you a heads-up about a report EWG is releasing today on pet body burden. We tested 60 dogs and cats for 70 different toxic chemicals and found that in many cases, pets are even more contaminated than people.
Considering rising rates of cancer in dogs and rampant hyperthyroidism in cats, we think there’s cause for concern. You can see the report at the Environmental Working group site.
We’re launching a campaign to go along with the report: Pets for the Environment — the idea is to rally pet lovers to advocate for toxic chemical reform while providing tips to help us all keep our pets healthy. We’ve got a supercute spokesdog named Eddie (who’s on dogster, of course!), and supporters can even upload their own pet photos to Eddie’s Wall of Cute.
Here’s the article:
High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemicals Contaminate Cats And Dogs
Summary and Findings
They are trying their best to warn us.
In the first study of its kind, Environmental Working Group found that American pets are polluted with even higher levels of many of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have recently found in people, including newborns.
The results show that Americas pets are serving as involuntary sentinels of the widespread chemical contamination that scientists increasingly link to a growing array of health problems across a wide range of animalswild, domesticated and human.
Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues, or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do their pets. But with their compressed lifespans, developing and aging seven or more times faster than children, pets also develop health problems from exposures much more rapidly. The National Research Council has found that sickness and disease in pets can inform our understanding of our own health risks (NRC 1991). And for anyone who has lost a pet to cancer or another disease potentially linked to chemical exposures, this sentinel role played by pets becomes a devastating personal loss.
In recognition of the unique roles that pets play in our lives, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) undertook a study to investigate the extent of exposures pets face to contaminants in our homes and outdoor environments. In a novel study representing the broadest biomonitoring investigation yet conducted in pets, what we found was surprising.
Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to our study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic.
Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to average levels in people found in national studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EWG (Figure).
This study is the most comprehensive investigation of the chemical body burden of companion animals conducted to date, with 23 chemicals reported in pets for the first time. The results reinforce findings from prior studies showing that pets unique behaviors may place them at risk for elevated exposures and health risks from chemicals pollutants in the home and outdoors, in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products for people and pets.
For nearly all the chemicals included in the current study, health risks in pets have not been studied. But the chemicals are linked to serious health effects in other studies from laboratory data or human populations:
For dogs, blood and urine samples were contaminated with 35 chemicals altogether, including 11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins. The carcinogens are of particular concern, since dogs have much higher rates of many kinds of cancer than do people, including 35 times more skin cancer, 4 times more breast tumors, 8 times more bone cancer, and twice the incidence of leukemia, according to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (2008). Between 20 and 25 percent of dogs die of cancer, making it the second leading cause of death in dogs (Purdue University Department of Veterinary Pathobiology 2000).
Cat samples contained 46 chemicals altogether, including 9 carcinogens, 40 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, 34 neurotoxins, and 15 chemicals toxic to the endocrine system. Endocrine (hormone) system toxins raise particular concerns for cats, since they include the thyroid toxins and fire retardants called PBDEs. Thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism) is a leading cause of illness in older cats (Gunn-Moore 2005). The growing use of PBDEs in consumer products over the past 30 years has paralleled the rising incidence of feline hyperthyroidism, and a preliminary study suggests that PBDEs are found at higher levels in cats stricken with this disease (Dye 2007). Studies also show a high correlation between eating canned food and developing hyperthyroidism later in life for cats (Edinboro 2004; Kass 1999, Martin 2000). In addition to PBDEs, hyperthyroidism in cats could be linked to the plastics chemical and potent endocrine disruptor BPA that is known to leach from the pop-top cat food can lining into food (Edinboro 2004; Kang 2002).
In America there are 8 times more companion dogs and cats than there are children under five. Seventy percent more households have dogs or cats than children of any age. These pets are often beloved family members, and yet they can be subjected to chronic, constant exposures to chemical contaminants in homes, yards, and parks that pet owners cannot always prevent.
As cats meticulously groom themselves, they lick off accumulated dust that studies show can be contaminated with the neurotoxic fire retardants PBDEs and reproductive toxins called phthalates that were found in the cats we tested (Bornehag 2004, Stapleton 2005, Wormuth 2006). A dog eating scraps from the floor may also swallow dirt and dust tracked in from the outdoors and contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides (Colt 2004, vom Lindern 2003). A flea collar can spew droplets of insecticide that can be lethal to cats (Linnett 2008). Dogs and cats often eat food processing and packaging chemicals that contaminate their food, day after day and year after year, resulting in cumulative exposures with unknown health risks (FDA CVM 2008b). Chew toys might contain plastic softeners, foam beds might be infused or coated with fire retardants and stain-proofing chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects, and plastic water bowls might leach hormone disruptors.
Pets face chemical exposures that in some ways are similar to those of infants and toddlers, who have limited diets and play close to the floor and put their hands and household objects in their mouths far more often than adults. For pets as for children, exposures are greater and the resulting health risks are higher (Betts 2007).
EWGs review of scientific literature identified studies that demonstrate a plethora of links between chemicals exposures and health risks for pets. The perversely named dancing cat fever describes the results of neurological damage in cats with acute mercury poisoning (Koya 1964), while Teflon toxicosis has been the cause of death for hundreds of pet birds nationwide whose lungs filled with blood after they breathed in toxic fumes from overheated, non-stick pans (EWG 2003a, NRC 1991). Horses have died after chewing on wooden fences infused with the same arsenic-based pesticide found in the decks and playsets of 70 million homes nationwide (Casteel 2001, Edlich 2005, Khan 2006). Studies show lung cancer (mesothelioma) in dogs exposed to asbestos fibers at home (Glickman 1983), bladder cancer in dogs living near industrial areas (Hayes 1981) or exposed to topical flea and tick pesticides (Glickman 2004) or lawn and garden weed killers and insecticides (Glickman 2004), lead toxicosis in dogs and cats in homes with chipping lead-based house paint (Knight 2003, Marino 1990, Miller 1992), malignant lymphomas in dogs whose owners use the lawn pesticide 2,4-D (Hayes 1991), and mouth cancer (oral squamous cell carcinoma) in cats exposed to flea repellants (Bertone 2003).
Major gaps in our system of public health protections allow most industrial chemicals on the market with no mandatory safety testing. Chemical companies do not have to prove products are safe before they are sold, or understand how much of their chemicals end up in people let alone pets. There are few standards that limit chemical contamination in pet food, pet toys and other products for our companion animals (FDA CVM 2008a,b). For pets as for people, the result is a body burden of complex mixtures of industrial chemicals never tested for safety. Health problems in pets span high rates of cancer in dogs (Paoloni 2008; Paoloni 2007; Waters 2006) and skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in cats (Edinboro 2004; Peterson 2007). Genetic changes can’t explain the increases in certain health problems among pets. Scientists believe that chemical exposures play a role (e.g., National Research Council 1991, Landrigan 2001).
The presence of chemicals in dogs and cats sounds a cautionary warning for the present and future health of children as well. This study demonstrating the chemical body burden of dogs and cats is a wake-up call for stronger safety standards from industrial chemical exposures that will protect all members of our families, including our pets.