(DOGS/PET HEALTH) Have you redecorated your living room in the past few years? If not, you may want to invest in a new couch, at least for your dog’s sake.
Chemicals present in old furniture pieces can invade your pet’s bloodstream and food supply. Since newer sofas may pose a similar threat in the future, a better option is to buy handcrafted furniture or ensure your animal companions stay off potentially harmful sofas.
Let sleeping dogs lie—but not on the couch! Read on to learn more about how chemical flame retardants can affect our furry friends. — Global Animal
Discovery News, Jennifer Viegas
Chemical flame retardants used to make pre-2004 furniture and other items have entered the blood stream of dogs, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The chemicals, which have been linked to environmental and human health effects, are present in the blood of pet dogs at concentrations that are five to 10 times higher than amounts measured in people. Prior research also determined that flame retardants absorb into the bloodstream of cats.
“Even though they’ve been around for quite awhile, we don’t know too much about these compounds’ toxicological effects on humans or animals,” co-author Marta Venier said in a press release. “The bottom line is that we still need to keep measuring them, particularly in homes.”
Venier, an assistant research scientist at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and colleague Ronald Hites explained that the chemicals, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been widely used to make household furniture and electronics equipment. As the study demonstrates, these flame retardants can migrate out of the products and enter the environment.
PBDE mixtures made up of less-brominated compounds are regarded as more dangerous because they can collect in the tissues of people, their pets and other animals. The European Union wisely banned the mixtures, but the U.S. market just had a voluntary removal of them in 2004. Mixtures with more-brominated compounds remain in use in the U.S. but will be phased out by 2013.
The EPA keeps tabs on flame retardants but I’d like to see more studies on them. So often companies generate chemicals to solve a problem and then wind up creating an even bigger health threat.
If your dog is a couch potato, and you have an older sofa, you might consider upgrading to some newer furniture that does not contain the chemicals. The flame retardants, unfortunately, still remain in the environment, but the fewer products you have that are made with them, the less your home environment will be contaminated.
Another concern has to do with pet food. The researchers examined samples of dry dog food regularly consumed by canines in the study, attempting to determine if food was a major source of PBDE exposure. Sure enough, the dog chow contained PBDEs at levels averaging about one nanogram per gram. While trace amounts of these chemicals are in our food, the amount in dog chow is much higher, suggesting the PBDEs result from processing rather than from the food sources.
The dogs analyzed for the study retained about two nanograms of the chemicals per gram of blood. That’s up to 10 times higher than amounts detected in North American human blood samples.
If you do decide to upgrade your furniture, you might consider more handcrafted items or items made with organic materials by manufacturers that are mindful of environmental issues. That’s because even the newer flame retardants, such as Dechlorane Plus, decabromodiphenylethane, and hexabromocyclododecane, also seem to seep into the environment.
The scientists say these newer chemicals are largely unregulated, but pose concerns because they are structurally similar to other potentially dangerous organic pollutants.
“The concentrations of these newer flame retardants were relatively low compared to the PBDEs,” Venier said, “but the fact that they are new and not regulated suggests their levels are going to increase in the future.”