Study Finds High Levels of Toxins in Cats and Dogs
Friday, April 18, 2008
Category: News > University > Research and Ideas
Results from a study released by the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society yesterday show that cats and dogs are often exposed to high levels of toxic chemicals, concentrations that would be harmful if found in humans.
The study was conducted by Environmental Working Group, which tested blood and urine samples from 20 dogs and 40 cats for a variety of chemicals. They found that the pets were contaminated with chemicals including plasticizers, grease-proofing chemicals and fire retardants.
According to Arlene Blum, a chemist and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley who works with members of the group for chemical regulation reform, the high chemical levels found in pets may be a reflection of levels in humans.
"It's the same chemicals being exposed to our bodies, our cats' bodies, our kids' bodies," she said.
Bill Walker, vice president for the West Coast office of the group, attributed the high chemical levels to laws that allow companies to use chemicals that have not been proven to be harmful even though they may still have harmful effects.
"As it is now, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty," he said. "That's a good system for a criminal justice system, but not for protecting public health."
Walker called the laws governing toxic chemicals "woefully out of date," and said the laws should be guided by a precautionary principle that would regard chemicals as dangerous until proven safe.
The study is meant to raise awareness about what pets are being exposed to and what current regulations are, said Rebecca Sutton, a UC Berkeley alumna and staff scientist for the group.
"We're hoping it's a bit of a wake-up call for pet owners," she said.
Blum said that toxic chemicals are found in the home, especially in furniture that has been treated by fireproofing materials. She is currently working on a bill that would prohibit the most toxic fire retardants from being used in furniture unless they can be proven safe.
Blum said her cat, Midnight, is an inspiration and mascot for her work.
Midnight was diagnosed a year and a half ago with hyperthyroidism. Midnight's blood samples have since been shown to contain high levels of toxic fire retardants, which Blum said causes thyroid cancer in lab animals.
Blum said that, as a chemist, she believes it is important to work with chemical companies to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products.
"I really believe that scientists have a huge opportunity and a huge responsibility to affect policy," she said.
Contact Rachel Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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