Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our Poisoned Pets

In a groundbreaking study, the Environmental Working Group discovered that our pet dogs and cats are polluted with even higher levels of many of the same industrial chemicals that researchers have begun finding in people, even newborns.

We’re talking about a witch’s brew of flame retardants, teflons, plastics, mercury and other metals. Yum.

The blood and urine of the dogs they studied contained 35 chemicals, 31 of them toxic to reproductive systems and 24 of them neurotoxins…

Cats were home to some 46 chemicals, including nine carcinogens, 40 substances toxic to reproductive systems, 34 neurotoxins, and 15 chemicals toxic to endocrine systems (yes, many do double or triple duty).

Sometimes, the levels are incomprehensible: cats, for example, were discovered to show elevated amounts of fire retardants 23 times higher than people.

The source of all this contamination? A cat sleeps on its bed sprayed with flame retardant, grooms itself and ingests polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), linked to a host of health issues. Cat food cans are lined with Bisphenol-A, an estrogen mimic, and the can’s tuna often contains high doses of mercury, a neurotoxin. Chew toys give off small amounts of phthalates (a plasticizer increasingly under indictment), flea collars emit small doses of insecticides, lead based paint is ingested by pets when they lick dust off their paws.

Just walking across a new carpet exposes your pet to PBDEs.

The upshot? PBDE has been linked to thyroid disease, and hyperthyroidism in cats is increasing alongside PBDE use. The rate of skin cancer in dogs is 35 times higher than people, bone cancer eight times higher—and they suffer a quadrupled rate for breast tumors and twice the rate of leukemia.

It’s a little scary, but this knowledge is important. “Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water,” concludes the study, “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.”

Makes you wonder what’s in our own blood, doesn’t it?