New study shows dogs exposed to harmful chemicals from plastic toys.
By: N Gilbert
A new study has found that plastic pet toys, such as as bumper toys, which is a common device used to train retrieving dogs, readily leach the harmful chemicals bisphenol-A (BPA) and phtalates and could pose a health risk to dogs.
Scientists at the Texas Tech University revealed that dogs that chew and play with bumper toys (also called "dummies") may be exposing themselves to the chemicals.
In recent years, research in humans and rodents linked BPA and phthalates to a number of health issues including: hormonal fluctuations, decreased fertility, impaired development of reproductive organs and cancers.
Typically, BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic (often hard plastics and vinyl), including some water bottles, baby bottles, and in epoxy resins, which are used to line metal products including some canned foods. Phthalates are mainly used as plasticizers - substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility.
The substance was originally declared safe but recently, many health authorities worldwide reversed its position on BPA and phtalates. The United States, Canada and the European Union have banned some BPAs and phthalates in children’s toys, baby bottles and sippy cups. Consumer pressure has also resulted in many manufacturers discontinued using of the chemical additives in their products. However, there are still numerous products, including canned foods, which still use BPAs and phtalates.
Philip Smith, co-author of the study and a toxicologist at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, became interested in chemical exposures from bumpers after using them to train his own Labrador Retrievers. "Some of the dogs are exposed to plastic bumpers from the time they are born until the day they die. We all want our pets to be healthy," Smith told Environmental Health News.
The study took orange and white bumpers and then measured how much BPA and phthalates leached from the plastic items into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva. Since simulated saliva was used, it is difficult to say how much actual leaching would occur in a dog's mouth.
The bumpers were also exposed to simulated chewing. Chewed bumpers leached more BPAs and phalates than those simply left outside to the elements for a period of time. Further studies would need to be done in order to begin to estimate actual exposure of the chemicals to a dog. However, scientists suspect that the levels of chemicals observed from the bumpers would be considered very high when compared with children's toys.
Researchers also tested pet toys sold through major retailers. Bumpers tended to leach higher concentrations than other toys, but preliminary test results showed that some store-bought toys might have leached other hormonally-active chemicals.
"A lot of plastic products are used for dogs, so to understand the potential for some of the chemicals to leach out from toys is a new and important area of research," said veterinarian Safdar Khan, senior director of toxicology research at the ASPCA's Poison Control Center in Illinois. Dr. Khan also pointed out that there may be other potential sources of environmental chemicals - such as house dust - that affect dogs, given they are much closer to the ground than humans.
Although more research needs to be done on the potential health risks for dogs exposed to BPA and phthalates Smith said that consumer education about potential risk seems warranted based on their data.
A number of popular dog toy manufacturers do have BPA and phtalate-free products available. They include: West Paw Design, Chewber, Planet Dog, Jolly Pets, Nylabone and Kong.