Dogs and cats may be the proverbial canaries in the coal mine

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Dr Donna Spector

High levels of industrial chemicals are showing up in American pets.  A fairly recent study performed by the Environmental Working Group ( has documented that pets were positive for 48 of the 70 chemicals tested.  On average, dogs had 40% higher and cats had 96% higher levels of these chemicals than were found in people.  These chemicals are known carcinogens or toxic to the reproductive, endocrine, or neurologic systems. 

This study did not prove that these chemicals were causing illness in pets, however, these chemicals have been linked to serious human health problems.  The numbers are even more alarming given that pets have much higher cancer rates and endocrine disorders than people. 

This study documents that dogs and cats are exposed to a complex mixture of industrial chemicals.  Since pets breathe in, ingest or absorb the same chemicals that are in our environment, exposures that pose risks for pets pose risks for human health as well.  This is a wake-up call that stronger safety standards for industrial chemicals are needed to protect ALL members of American families. 

Help decrease your pet’s exposure to chemicals:

  • Bathe your pet more frequently (with a natural herbal oil grooming product) to remove chemicals that may be airborne and deposit on their fur.  Avoid grooming products with ingredients such as "paraben", "-eth", and "fragrance" as these are chemicals which can be absorbed through the skin. 
  • Wipe down your pets coat, feet and legs every time they come in from outdoors.  This will decrease their chance of ingesting chemicals during their normal daily grooming.
  • Remove your shoes at the door to avoid tracking in harmful chemicals.  Dust and vacuum (with a HEPA-filter system) frequently to remove dirt and dust which has been documented to be contaminated with fire-retardant chemicals, heavy metals and pesticides.  
  • Wash your pet’s bedding frequently and select bedding that is not treated with flame-retardant chemicals. 
  • Avoid stain-proofing furniture, carpets and car upholstery.  The chemicals used in stain-proofing contain high levels of dangerous perfluorochemicals. 
  • When cleaning surfaces that pets walk or sleep on, rinse off or remove any cleaners to avoid skin absorption.
  • Minimize usage of lawn or garden chemicals and pesticides.
  • Avoid the use of Teflon (non-stick) cooking pans as the fumes contain toxic and dangerous chemicals
  • Avoid drinking water contaminants by removing them with a reverse osmosis filter system. 
  • Avoid plastic containers or chew toys.  Plastic products may contain chemicals (called phthalates) which raise the risk for cancer.  Replace plastic toys with fabric or natural materials.  Food and water bowls should be made of glass, steel or ceramic. 
  • Choose a natural pet food to limit your pet’s exposure to synthetic dyes, colorings, preservatives and other potentially harmful additives. 
  • Many cat owners feed strictly fish diets and I would recommend alternating between fish and other meats as a cat’s protein source to avoid potentially dangerous mercury exposure. 
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