Dogs and flame retardant chemical

Scientists from Indiana University have hypothesised that dogs may be better indicators of human exposure to flame retardants. In a previous study they found that pet cats had higher serum levels of flame retardants compared to humans in spite of sharing the same household environment. Dogs have lower levels because they are better able to metabolically degrade the flame retardant compounds.

Marta Venier, an assistant research scientist in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Ronald Hites, a Distinguished Professor in SPEA, measured chemicals in serum samples from 18 dogs and their food. Dust was also considered as an exposure source. Even though the focus of the study, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been around for a while, their toxicological effects on humans and animals remains unknown. PBDEs made up of less-brominated compounds are banned by the EU and removed from the US market in 2004, but remain in the environment. More-brominated compounds will be phased out by 2013.

Concentrations of PBDEs in the blood of the dogs was 2 nanograms per gram, which is about five to ten times higher than levels found in humans, in the few studies done on humans in North America. In the dog food, the concentration of PBDEs was 1 nanogram per gram, which being much higher than in meat sold for human consumption, suggests that the PBDEs in dog food may result from the processing rather than the sources.

The study also detected newer unregulated flame retardants that have come onto the market as PBDEs have been removed. These chemicals have been measured at lower levels, but pose a concern because they are similar to organic pollutants that have been linked to environmental and human health effects, and their use is currently unregulated and could increase in future.

Source: Environmental Science and Technology

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First Publishd in April 2011

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