Pets Need Clean Air, Too
Recently, a few of us at Airtopia met with a former employee of our founder David Evans MBE to talk about a unique perspective she brought to our work. Having left the world of marketing and account management, Michelle has begun working in pet healthcare and asked us if we’d considered the impact of poor indoor air quality on pets.
We all looked at each other with a touch of chagrin. It was a table full of pet owners and embarrassingly, not one of us had considered the impact of pollution on our pet’s health.
We usually think of animals as a source of health problems with their dander, fleas and mites. As pet lovers, we’d been trying to find ways to mitigate their impact on the health of our homes. But we hadn’t actually stopped to think about how our homes could be impacting furry family members!
Are we harming our pets more than they harm us?
In 2008, The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an American non-profit research, education and activism organisation, conducted a study of the contamination of cats and dogs by toxic industrial chemicals found in the home.
Worryingly, here’s what they discovered:
Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to… (their) study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic.
Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than 5 times the amounts of mercury, compared to average levels in people found in national studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and EWG (Figure).
Source: Analysis of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats in study conducted by EWG. Laboratory analyses by AXYS Analytical, Sidney, BC.
The report on the study also referenced research published in December 1997 entitled, “An alternative approach for investigating the carcinogenicity of indoor air pollution: pets as sentinels of environmental cancer risk.” This study looked at the feasibility of estimating ‘residential cancer risk by examining the exposure experience of pet dogs with naturally occurring cancers.’
What does this mean in layman's terms?
Basically, it means that because our pets live much shorter lives, they develop health problems from exposure to indoor air pollution much quicker than we do. It’s possible not only that our pets may develop cancer from what they breathe and ingest in the homes, but also that their illness could be a warning sign to us for our long-term health!
Why are our pets at such high risk?
One word: gravity. Many chemicals we use in our house (for example, cleaners, adhesives, scents, paints and building materials) are either in the air we breathe or settle somewhere eventually - often on the floor or furniture. Who spends much of their time with their face lying flat on the carpet or licking their fur while lounging on the couch? You got it: Fido and Fifi.
By their mere proximity to the ground, pets absorb more of the toxins in our homes than adults do (true for human babies, too!). Also, chemicals trapped in pet fur can be licked off, causing our four-legged friends addition exposure.
Another issue, according to a recent BBC video about pets and air pollution in South Korea, is that animals breathe in more polluted air for their weight than humans do. Again, their exposure to toxins is increased.
What should you do to protect your pet?
There are a few simple tips to keep your pets healthy at home:
- Wash and comb your pet regularly.
- Keep your floors clean with regular vacuuming (using a hepa filter) or mopping with hot water or natural cleansers.
- Wipe down any furniture that pets use.
- Wash your pet’s bedding frequently.
- Use natural cleaning products.
- Don’t cover smells with chemical-laden air ‘fresheners’; open the window or use some natural odor absorbers like baking soda.
And, of course, we always recommend having your home tested to make sure there’s nothing toxic in the air that could cause your little loved one to get sick.
Best friends forever
Our pets depend on us to take care of them, emotionally and physically. It’s hard to imagine the pet owner who would want their animal to be a ‘sentinel’ - indicating an air quality issue in the home by becoming the first to develop a health issue like asthma or cancer.
Keeping our cats and dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, birds and fish safe and well matters to us animal lovers. The best way to do that is to be armed with as much information as possible.
Air pollution, indoors and out, has a significant impact on little bodies. You don’t have as much control over the air outdoors, but within your home, some extra information and a few small changes can go a long way towards ensuring long and healthy lives for every member of your family.
Join us in Airtopia, an ideal state of air purity.