Are Plastic Toys Hurting Our Pets?

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A new study from Texas Tech University has found that plastic toys, such as bumper toys used for training, may be exposing our dogs to harmful chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA) and phtalates, which could pose a health risk.

Philip Smith, co-author of the study and a toxicologist at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, became curious about how these toys may be affecting his own dogs.

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"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 researchers, led by Kimberly Wooten, studied how much BPA and phtalates leached from orange and white plastic bumper toys into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva and compared both those that were left outside to those that were subjected to simulated chewing.

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Since simulated chewing and artificial saliva were used, researchers aren't sure exactly what the quantity of chemicals leaching into a dogs mouth would be, but, according to Smith, they believe the amount would be high if compared to children's toys. They also tested other types of pet toys and found that while higher concentrations of BPA and phtalates leached from bumper toys, other toys also leached hormonally-active chemicals.

"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.

Back in 1998, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that phthalates leaching out of plastic toys children put in their mouths may be higher than the acceptable level of intake and that when adult volunteers mouthed toys, the result was 39.5 times higher than simulated lab tests showed.

However, no one is sure whether these substances pose a health risk to pets since the effects weren't studied. Most of the research that has been conducted has focused on products that humans use, although BPA and phtalates have been associated with a number of problems in humans and rodents, such as certain types of cancer, defects, early onset puberty in females, reproductive impairment, obesity and behavioral problems.

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In 2010, the FDA stated that it had "some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children."

The U.S. Canada and the European Union have banned some phthalates in toys for children and the FDA has banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups intended for toddlers in response to a request from the American Chemistry Council.

The researchers involved in this study believe that this area should be further explored and consumers should be educated about the potential risks.

Alternatives for your pets

Fortunately, there are a number of companies that pass on potentially harmful substances and offer BPA and phtalate-free toys for pets, including Planet Dog, Nylabone, West Paw Design, Chewber, Jolly Pets and Kong. Etsy also has a few sellers who make eco-friendly pet products, like Wag Rags, among others.

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