Just as exposure to common household and yard chemicals affect us and our children, our pets are affected by these toxins, too. And the exposure to these toxins may produce compounded harmful effects in our cats and dogs.

Toxins in petsResearchers for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed blood and urine samples they collected from 40 cats and 20 dogs, all household pets. They were tracking the presence of 70 industrial chemicals in the pets’ bodies. The results of their analysis is described as startling.

Of the 70 chemicals tracked, 48 of them were present in the animals. Of those 48 chemicals, 43 of them were at levels much higher than what is typically found in humans. Stain- and grease-proofing coating chemicals (perfluorochemicals) were 2.4 times higher in the dogs than in people. Fire retardants (PBDEs) were found at levels 23 times higher in cats than in people and the cats’ mercury levels were 5 times higher. The average chemical saturation in humans for this study was based on conclusions from national studies conducted by both the EWG and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jane Houlihan, vice president of research at EWG, suggests the elevated levels of common household chemicals in our pets is a glimpse into the future for ourselves and our children. She would like to see study become a “wake-up call” to establish more stringent safety standards pertaining to industrial chemicals that become a part of our homes.

Pets are exposed to these toxins the same way people are – tap water, pesticide residue on lawns, and by simply breathing the same indoor air pollutants humans do. Like the smallest children, pets play close to the floor and ingest a limited diet, two factors associated with increased health risk of industrial chemicals. Pets’ grooming behaviors and their accelerated life spans both play a role in producing quicker evidence of chemical contamination than would be found in humans.

Almost 50% of all homes in America include a cat or a dog. These pets live in eight times more homes than do children under the age of 5. Households with cats and dogs outnumber households with children of any age by 70%.

There are no current laws that require chemicals in pet foods, toys, and other products to be tested for safety. The body burden of exposure to these untested chemicals produces a complex mix of industrial chemicals that could possibly be linked to the very high rate of cancer in dogs and hyperthyroidism in cats seen today.

The EWG is a not-for-profit research organization headquartered in Washington, DC. It employs the power of information in its quest to protect both the environment and human health.