Five Ways Your Home May Not Be Safe For Your Best Friends

Pets are our best friends; their loyalty, companionship, and unwavering devotion steal our hearts. It may be “a dog’s life” to lie around all day, but that doesn’t mean our pets have it easy.

1. Closer to the ground means more exposure to chemicals. Our pets are at a higher risk to chemical exposure in our homes than we are.Because many pets spend the majority of their lives in the home, are (usually) smaller than people, and live (usually) mostly on the floor, they are closer to harmful chemicals found in contaminated dust from a variety of building products found in homes.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), cats in the home have 23 times higher levels of brominated flame retardants — found in carpets, furniture upholstery, and other places — in their system compared to humans. Similarly, dogs in the home are contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals — used for stain resistance — at levels 2.4 times higher than typically found in people.

The EWG identified numerous studies documenting illness in pets linked to chemical exposure, many from chemicals found in the materials used to build and decorate our homes.

2. Grooming can lead to more exposure. Higher levels of the flame retardant chemical PBDE in domesticated cats can be attributed to toxic dust shed from carpeting, furniture, and fabrics. Because cats live mostly indoors and possess instinctive meticulous grooming behavior, it has been estimated that house cats likely ingest seven times more dust than adult humans. Higher levels of PBDEs in cats are linked to hyperthyroidism, a disease that causes weight loss, dehydration, vomiting, and hyperactivity.

3. What’s in your water? Studies have shown the primary health impacts of perfluorinated chemicals include decreased liver function, thyroid disease, and adverse developmental and reproductive outcomes. Drinking water is one of the most common exposures these chemicals for pets and livestock. It is recommended that humans and their animals use the same clean drinking water precautions to avoid these harmful chemicals, such as using water filtration devices. You can search for certified water filtration products here.

4. Danger in the air. Formaldehyde also has been known to cause cancer in animals and pets can inhale the harmful chemical when exposed to new fabrics, furniture, wood flooring, and paneling bonded with formaldehyde resins. Air purifiers are not enough; good ventilation is needed to keep fresh air flowing while your pets are patiently waiting for you to come home from work.

5. Bringing work home. Not every danger comes from chemicals originating in the home; you may be bringing danger home with you. Workers exposed to asbestos on the job have dogs eight times more at risk of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer often resulting in cardiac distress, gastrointestinal symptoms, lethargy, heart failure, and respiratory issues.

Because many pets spend the majority of their lives in the home, are (usually) smaller than people, and live (usually) mostly on the floor, they are closer to harmful chemicals found in contaminated dust from a variety of building products found in homes.

Examining chemical exposure in pets is helpful to their human owners. Our pet companions live shorter lives and have shorter latency periods, meaning they show signs of illness from exposure to toxic chemicals at a faster rate than humans. Because of this, evaluation of chemical exposure-related diseases in pets could help scientists identify chemical exposure risks to vulnerable human populations — such as infants and toddlers — who, like pets, spend more time on the floor.

The rise of chemicals in building and construction products creates an increased risk for our pets. By using healthier building products we can help our companions, our children, and ourselves live healthier, happier, and longer. BuildingClean.org hosts a powerful database with an explanation of potential dangers in common building products, a tool to find healthier building products, harmful chemical fact sheets, and other helpful resources.

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