[Pharmwaste] Pets could be bellwether for owners' health
dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Wed May 28 15:11:44 EDT 2008
Pets could be bellwether for owners' health
Toxic exposure often surfaces in dogs, cats before humans
By Alex Breitler
May 27, 2008
Record Staff Writer
Your cat grooms himself carefully, then saunters over to a plastic water
bowl for a drink, while your dog gnaws on a chew toy or gobbles down
scraps someone left on the kitchen floor.
Such are the simple lives of our pets.
One watchdog group warns in a recently published study, however, that
these innocuous acts and many others could expose your pet to an array
of chemicals, often at levels higher than detected in humans.
The Environmental Working Group suggests that dogs and cats might be
bellwethers for human health. They are exposed to many of the same
toxins as we are, and their shorter life spans and rapid development
means any health problems they suffer as a result appear much earlier.
"They are trying their best to warn us," the study says.
No arguments from Yvonne Bedsworth of Lodi, who visits a dog park twice
a day with her poodle mix, Chloie, and Yorkshire terrier, Tinc.
She doesn't want the dogs drinking from plastic containers; the study
says plastic might leach chemicals that disrupt animals' hormones. And
she worries in general about their exposure to chemicals, such as the
oily residues that wash down the street when it rains.
"There's a lot of nasty stuff out there," Bedsworth said.
The study found dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 chemicals
for which they were tested, most at levels higher than humans.
Some of these chemicals are carcinogens and are particularly worrisome,
because dogs have higher rates of cancer than humans.
Endocrine-disrupting toxins in cats could cause thyroid disease, a
leading cause of illness for older cats.
The behavior of our pets makes them especially likely to ingest
chemicals, the study says. Dogs will eat anything off the floor. Cats
lick dust off their fur.
The study does not quantify risk for each of the chemicals studied,
The basic idea that pets could act as sentinels for chemical exposure is
not new, said Bob Poppenga, a professor of veterinary clinical
toxicology at the University of California, Davis.
But more research is needed, he said, before definitive links can be
"Every species is a little bit different," he said. "You just sort of
have to be cautious going from one to another."
He said one of the reasons for the increase in cancer is that dogs are
living longer, thanks to improvements in medical care and treatment.
The Environmental Working Group calls for greater government oversight
of pet food and products, and a public health protection system that
would ascertain that chemicals are safe before they are sold.
Contact reporter Alex Breitler at (209) 546-8295 or
abreitler at recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/blogs.
Some of the ways pets might be exposed to chemicals:
* A dog eating scraps from the floor might swallow dust from outdoors
contaminated with heavy metals or pesticides.
* A cat might ingest chemicals that leach from a pop-top can of food.
* Chew toys might contain plastic softening chemicals.
* Foam beds might be coated with fire retardants and stainproofing
* Plastic water bowls might leach hormone-disrupting chemicals.
* Pets might be exposed to herbicides used on the yard.
To read the Environmental Working Group study and for tips on keeping
your pets safe, visit www.ewg.org and click on "Protect Your Pet's
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218 (NEW!)
Location: 629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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