Think your pets aren’t being affected by toxic chemicals in your home? Think again. What if I told you that dogs and cats are polluted with higher levels of some of the same synthetic industrial chemicals found in people? The most comprehensive (and first of its kind) investigation conducted by scientists at EWG, “Polluted Pets,” measured the levels of toxic industrial chemical contaminates in companion animals.
The results were shocking.
In dogs, scientists detected 35 chemicals on average (including plasticizers, grease-proof chemicals and fire retardants), 11 of which were carcinogens. Thirty-one were toxic to the reproductive system and 24 were neurotoxins. These chemicals were found at 40 percent higher levels than in humans.
Notably higher levels of fire retardants, plasticizers and grease-proofing chemicals were found in cats. Forty-six chemicals in total were detected at 96 percent higher levels than found in people. Nine were carcinogens, 40 were harmful to the reproductive system, 34 were neurotoxic and 15 were damaging to the endocrine system.
It goes without saying that reducing your pets’ toxic exposure begins at home with you. In addition to healthy food and avoiding nonstick cookware, here are seven surefire tips to get started on the right, um, paw.
1. WATER & BOWLS
Are you serving up tap water for your beloved furry friends? There are countless chemical and biological pollutants in tap water, many untested and untreated by your municipal water department.
Implement an inexpensive faucet-mounted filter or filtered pitcher to reduce contaminants.
Also, pass on the plastic when it comes to bowls since the plastic chemicals can break down and migrate into food and water. Look instead for stainless steel, ceramic or bamboo alternatives. Bamboo Bowls are made from renewable resources — 100 percent natural plant dye, bamboo and cooked rice husks. Plus, they’re biodegradable and dishwasher-safe.
Many dog toys are made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and phthalates (synthetic chemicals used to soften the plastic). The breakdown products of four types of phthalates were discovered at higher levels in dogs than found in the majority humans tested. Even plush toys can contain synthetic pesticides and toxic dyes.
Simply Fido is a wonderful brand that offers certified nontoxic and certified organic plush toys that use low-impact dyes, free of toxic chemicals.
3. PET BEDS
Most traditional pet beds are made from petroleum-based foam, which can contain flame retardant and grease-proofing chemicals.
Pamper your pooch with safe, organic materials. My favorite is the Kingston Luxury Dog Bed which offers optimal pressure relief and support via a shredded natural latex memory foam with washable cover. Also, the Simply Fido Organic Cotton Crate Mats are great for travel. They’re certified nontoxic, chemical-free, colored with nontoxic, low-impact dyes and made from certified-organic cotton.
4. FLOORS & CLEANERS
Keep in mind that pets are close to the floor. They absorb the dust down there (which can contain arsenic, lead and DDT). As cats meticulously groom themselves, they lick off accumulated dust that studies reveal are contaminated with the neurotoxic fire retardant PBDEs and reproductive toxins (phthalates). Also, remember to use a natural floor cleaner and avoid harsh chemicals to mop.
In addition to removing your shoes at the front door, regular wet mopping and damp dusting are advised (read: How To Defeat Dust At Home And Breathe Easier) I also suggest the Dyson Groom to capture hair and allergens from dogs between groomings.
5. PESTICIDES & FLEA COLLARS
Avoid toxic herbicides and insecticides inside and out (read: Bug Off (Naturally)! 7 Nontoxic Pest Control Remedies. Traditional pesticides can cause nervous system damage. Pets walk across lawns and track chemicals indoors. Flea and tick collars can be another dangerous source of toxic exposure.
- Shampoo – The Alzoo Flea & Tick Repellent Shampoo for dogs protects against external parasites like fleas, ticks and mosquitoes and maintains a healthy, shiny coat. The Isle of Dogs Flea & Tick Shampoo is a fragrance-free, natural shampoo that safely and effectively removes and repels fleas and ticks.
- Spray – Pure + Good Flea & Tick Spray; a chemical-free formula that repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, gnats and biting flies for up to 8 hours.
- Flea Collar – A natural repellent flea collar, the environmentally-friendly Alzoo Diffusing Cat or Dog Collar protects against lice, fleas and ticks for up to 4 months.
6. CAT LITTER
Avoid clay cat litter which can contain silica dust and is not biodegradable. Opt instead for litter made from plant sources like naturally processed wheat or whole-kernel corn. Both are clay-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.
World’s Best Cat Litter is a whole-kernel corn option that is flushable and septic safe. Or, try natural sWheat Scoop which is made from wheat. Traveling? Try the KatPak; a disposable litter box made from recycled paper. No liners, scooping or changing litter required. It’s 100 percent biodegradable.
Remember, pets are part of the family. With their compressed life spans, they’re affected faster than humans from toxic exposures. It’s up to us to protect their health. Take it one step at a time and please share your favorite tip in the comments below.