Some common chemicals in our everyday personal care products, home care products, furniture, flooring and food are not only toxic to humans, but they are also toxic to dogs. Pesticides, flame retardants, and phthalates, for instance, are not only linked to human diseases, but also present biological and clinical threats to dogs. Now scientists have discovered that monitoring environmental exposures to toxic chemicals in dogs could be an early warning system for human health. In a recent study researchers used silicone dog tags as passive environmental samplers to collect information about everyday chemical exposures, and found that dogs could be an important sentinel species for the long term effects of environmental chemicals. This is particularly true because while both dogs and humans experience daily exposure to toxic chemicals, adverse effects that may take decades to show up in humans can occur in just one to two years in a dog.
Researchers recruited 30 dogs and their owners to wear silicone monitors for a five-day period in July 2018. Humans wore wristbands, while the dogs wore tags on their collars.
The researchers analyzed the wristbands and tags for exposures to chemicals within three classes of environmental toxicants that are often found in human blood and urine: pesticides, flame retardants, and phthalates, which are found in plastic food packaging and personal care products. They found high correlations between exposure levels for owners and their pets. Urinalysis also revealed the presence of organophosphate esters (found in some flame retardants) in both owners and dogs.
“What was remarkable about these results were the similar patterns of exposure between people and their pets. It’s quite clear that the home environment contributes strongly to our daily exposure to chemical contaminants.”
-Dr. Heather Stapleton, Ronie-Richelle Garcia-Johnson, Researcher, Distinguished Professor and Director, Duke Environmental Analysis Laboratory, Nicholas School
Journal Reference: C. Wise, et al. (2020). Comparative Exposure Assessment Using Silicone Passive Samplers Indicates Domestic Dogs are Sentinels to Support Human Health Research, Environmental Science & Technology, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b06605.