BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University scientists have found chemical flame retardants in the blood of pet dogs at concentrations five to 10 times higher than in humans, but lower than levels found in a previous study of cats.
Their study, "Flame Retardants in the Serum of Pet Dogs and in their Food," appears this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Authors are Marta Venier, an assistant research scientist in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and Ronald Hites, a Distinguished Professor in SPEA.
Venier and Hites explore whether pets could serve as "biosentinels" for monitoring human exposure to compounds present in the households that they share. Dogs may be better proxies than cats, they say, because a dog's metabolism is better equipped to break down the chemicals.
The study focuses on the presence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the blood of dogs and in commercial dog food. PBDEs have been widely used as flame retardants in household furniture and electronics equipment. The compounds can migrate out of the products and enter the environment.
"Even though they've been around for quite awhile, we don't know too much about these compounds' toxicological effects on humans or animals," Venier said. "The bottom line is that we still need to keep measuring them, particularly in homes."
PBDE mixtures made up of less-brominated compounds are regarded as more dangerous because they bioaccumulate in animal tissues. These mixtures were banned by the European Union and were voluntarily removed from the U.S. market in 2004, but remain in the environment. Mixtures with more-brominated compounds remain in use in the U.S. but will be phased out by 2013.
Venier and Hites report on an analysis of flame retardants in blood from 17 pet dogs, all of whom live primarily indoors. They also examined samples of the dry dog food that made up the pets' diet, attempting to
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