According to a new study, dogs and cats may be exposed to a potentially dangerous collection of chemicals in their homes, with their findings in the pets’ stool indicating health risks for humans living with them.
Aromatic amines are cancer-causing compounds that can be found in cigarette smoke and in colors used in cosmetics, fabrics, and plastics. Specifically, the study found that cigarette smoke was not a major source of pet exposure, which means that the other items were to blame.
The study, led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine experts, discovered eight different forms of aromatic amines in stool samples from dozens of dogs and cats. It also discovered evidence of the compounds in over 38% of urine samples from a different set of pets.
Sridhar Chinthakindi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health, says, “Our findings imply that pets are coming into contact with aromatic amines that leach from goods in their residential environment.”
“Because these compounds have been linked to bladder, colorectal, and other types of cancer in dogs and cats, our findings could help explain why so many of them get these diseases.”
He goes on to say that, aside from such direct exposures, pets are most likely infected indirectly. According to a previous study, microbes dwelling in animals’ digestive tracts can, for example, break down a common flea control medicine called amitraz into an aromatic amine called 2,6-dimethylaniline. About 70% of the aromatic amines in dogs and almost 80% of the aromatic amines in cats were this one.
Other hormone-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates, melamine, and bisphenols, have been measured in pet urine by the study authors in the past. According to Chinthakindi, the new study, which was published online March 30 in the journal Environment International, is the first to look into pet exposure to aromatic amines in the home.
The researchers gathered urine samples from 42 dogs and 21 cats residing in private homes, veterinary facilities, and animal shelters in Albany, New York, for the study. They also took feces samples from 77 other pets that lived in the same area. The animals’ ages, breeds, and sexes were all recorded. The samples were then checked for 30 different types of aromatic amines and nicotine.
Despite the fact that the study authors believed that both increased exposure and differences in metabolism between the two species played a role in the chemical concentrations found, the researchers discovered that cats had at least three times the amount of aromatic amines in their urine as dogs.Cats, in particular, do not break down many chemicals as well as dogs do.
According to the investigation, there was little difference in aromatic amine exposure between animals who lived at home and those who lived in shelters or stayed at veterinary hospitals. This, according to Chinthakindi, emphasizes how widespread these chemicals are and how difficult it is to avoid them.
Because pets are smaller and more susceptible to toxins, they serve as great “canaries in the coal mine” for assessing chemical dangers to human health, says research senior author Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., a professor at NYU Langone’s Department of Pediatrics. “If they’re being exposed to chemicals in our houses, we should be concerned about our own exposure.”
In addition to being a professor at NYU Langone, Kannan is also a researcher at the Center for the Study of Environmental Risk. He says that it’s not yet clear how many aromaticamines pets can eat safely, and regulatory bodies haven’t set a limit for their protection.
He goes on to say that the researchers plan to look at the link between aromatic amine exposure and cancers of the bladder, thyroid, and testicles in dogs next.