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Polluted pets
By Robin, Health-Fanatic
June 2015

In the first study of its kind, Environmental Working Group found that pets in the US are polluted with even higher levels of synthetic industrial chemicals found in people, including newborns.  I’ve picked out the main findings from the study, but if you want to read all the details (it’s number heavy), here’s the link to their website.

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 study found that 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.

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).

Relative to people, dogs showed high levels of stain- and grease-proof chemicals (perfluorochemicals in the Teflon family), plastics chemicals called phthalates, and fire retardants called PBDEs.  Dogs are exposed to these chemicals from a wide range of sources, including food package coating, house dust, dog beds, carpets, plastic toys and medicines.  Phthalates pose risks for reproductive damage, birth defects, and cancer, while PBDEs disrupt the normal functioning of thyroid hormones and pose risks to the brain during development. 


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.  

It is therefore up to us pet owners to keep our pets safe!

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