Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals Found in Pet Dogs

Chemical Structure of PBDEs
High levels of toxic flame-retardant chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's) were measured in the blood of 18 pet dogs. The measured concentrations of these toxic chemicals were up to 10 times higher as those generally found in humans, according to research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology (1).

The PBDE compounds are widely used as flame retardants in household furniture and electronics equipment; these chemicals are known to  migrate out of the products and enter the environment.

Researchers suggest that pets may act as "biosentinels" for humans who live with them in the same home. "Even though they've been around for quite awhile, we don't know too much about these compounds' toxicological effects on humans or animals," said research scientist Marta Venier (2).

A previous study from the same laboratory showed that pet cats also had much higher serum levels of flame retardants compared to humans, despite sharing the same household environment (3). It has been postulated that these high PBDE levels may contribute to the development of thyroid tumors and hyperthyroidism in cats.

Dogs, in contrast to cats, could be expected to have lower serum levels of flame retardants because they are metabolically better equipped to degrade these compounds. Thus, dogs might be more similar to humans in their response to these environmental chemicals and be better indicators of human exposures to these contaminants.Thus, it was surprising to find the high levels of these toxic compounds in these dog blood samples.

  1. Venier M, Hites RA. Flame retardants in the serum of pet dogs and in their food. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Article ASAP DOI:10.1021/es1043529    
  2. Science News. Toxic Chemicals Found in Pet Dogs.
  3. Dye JA, Venier M, Zhu L, Ward CR, Hites RA, Birnbaum LS. Elevated PBDE levels in pet cats: sentinels for humans? Environ Sci Technol. 2007;41:6350-6356.

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