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Friday Finds: Fido’s Chemical Body Burden

Your favorite four-legged companion may get a dose of toxic chemicals the next time you throw him/her a chew toy.

Your favorite four-legged companion may get a dose of toxic chemicals the next time you throw him/her a chew toy.

That’s the conclusion of an as-yet unpublished study, which found that dogs that chew on plastic toys may be exposed to hormone-altering chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. The new study, conducted at Texas Tech University, is one of the first to examine dog products as carriers of toxic chemicals. It’s not the first study, however, to look at the health effects of BPA and phthalates, which are widespread in the U.S. population and have been linked to everything from reproductive toxicity to obesity.

Most people get their BPA dose through diet since the chemical is found in food and drink packaging like water bottles and aluminum cans. As for phthalates, a group of industrial chemicals used to make hard plastics soft, they can be found hiding in plastic dashboards, perfumes and hairsprays.

Dogs don’t usually use hairspray, unless of course they’re in fancy dog shows (Best in Show, anyone?), so they’re exposure primarily comes from squeaky toys, typically made of hard plastic or vinyl, that leach toxic chemicals when chewed. Of course, since many people share their lives with their four-legged companions—often sleeping, eating and even vacationing with them—it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both dogs and cats are also exposed to a whole range of other household chemicals like heavy metals and fire retardants. In 2008 a study by the Environmental Working Group found that dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 out of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.

Though the U.S. has taken steps to reduce our chemical body burden by banning some phthalates in children’s toys, dog toys don’t share the same restrictions. In fact, there are few standards that limit chemical contamination in pet food, pet toys and other products for companion animals.

Luckily, a number of nontoxic food and toy options now exist for both pets and people. In addition, Earthjustice is working with groups like Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to push for strong chemical regulation reform and has also filed range of petitions and lawsuits calling for better disclosure and regulation on chemicals found in oil dispersants, household cleaners and pesticides.

Because whether you have two legs or four, everyone deserves a toxic-free environment.