Online journal Environmental Health News has uncovered some disturbing information about the toys that most people have for their dogs: “Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates – ingredients of hard plastics and vinyl – readily leach from bumper toys, which are used to train retrieving dogs.”
“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, who is the senior director of toxicology research at the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center in Illinois.
Previous research has concentrated on health risks to babies from plastic baby bottles and other toys they may bite or suck on. Dogs bite down even harder, so they are even more exposed to chemicals that leach out as they bite down.
“Think of the molecules that comprise plastics as bricks in a wall. With pet toys, wear and tear from chewing would place stress on the chemical bonds — the mortar — allowing individual molecules to be released,” said Laura Vandenberg, a reproductive scientist from Tufts University in Massachusetts.
In humans and rodents, studies have shown that BPA and phthalates have been correlated to such issues as impaired development of reproductive organs, as well as decreased fertility and reproductive cancers. The US has banned the use of phthalates in baby bottles, sippy cups and children’s toys.
The most recent study, which has yet to be published, focused on how much BPA and phthalates seep from plastic dog toys. They put the toys in two dishes with artificial dog saliva to see how they would react. One dish was left alone, and the second subjected to simulated chewing. The second dish showed more leaching. It is unethical to use real dogs for such testing, so there are limitations using artificial saliva.
“We don’t have enough information at this time to begin to estimate actual exposure,” said Philip Smith, a toxicologist at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech. Smith developed an interest after using plastic bumpers to train his own dogs.
“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,” he said.
A study done by the Environmental Working Group determined that the amount of BPA and phthalates found in dogs’ blood and urine was 1.1 to 4.5 times higher than that of humans. However, there is a dearth of toxicity data concerning dogs, and more studies must be conducted before conclusive data can be given.
For now, we must carefully monitor what we give our dogs. Many owners are already refusing to give their dogs chicken jerky treats, since thousands of dogs have become seriously ill and hundreds died after consuming the Chinese-manufactured snacks. This most recent research warrants dog lovers to do their homework and find BPA-free toys. Many have already made the switch to BPA-free dog food, because many brands of canned dog food have BPA-lined cans. Perhaps for the holidays this year we should give rope toys and homemade snacks instead.