Fire-proof pet food? Flame retardant chemicals in pet food

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I'm a lil' fireman!

You know, sometimes when I pop open my email and read the morning news, I just scratch my noggin and wonder, just what the bleep are they going to contaminate pet food with next? It just boggles my little pea brain. Rationale, well, that’s simply out of the question. Let’s see, if I was in that product development meeting, I might have heard something like this…”Ok Bob, we know the fish and the animal fat is contaminated with PBDEs, so why don’t we market it with a quirky twist like…hold on now…wait…it’s coming to me…I’ve got it! We’ll call it Flame Proof Fido! And, Fire Retardant Fluffy! OMG, I am sooo brilliant!” “Thanks Bob, listen, I really would rather have the black Porsche instead of the Christmas in Monte Carlo for my bonus this year.”

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

All right, where's the fire?

Flame Retardants in the Serum of Pet Dogs and in Their Food

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.

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I may be small, but I can kick butt!

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.

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

Where in tarnation is that firetruck?

“Even though they’ve been around for quite a while, 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.”

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I have exceeded my comfort level.

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.

Fire Dog Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I can't decide, put out fire or pee on fire hydrant.

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 determine if food was a major source of PBDE exposure.


Um, I don't know how to say this, but I hate getting wet and I'm scared of heights.

The average concentration of PBDEs in blood from the dogs was about 2 nanograms per gram, about five to 10 times higher than the levels found in humans in the few studies of human exposure that have been done in North America.

In dog food samples, the researchers found PBDEs at levels averaging about 1 nanogram per gram. That is much higher than levels found in meat and poultry sold as food for humans, suggesting the PBDEs in dog food may result from processing rather than from the food sources.


Firedogs dilema: chase cat up tree, pee on tree or rescue cat in tree.

A 2007 study by Venier, Hites and several co-authors found concentrations of PBDEs in-house cats that were 20 to 100 times higher than levels found in humans. A 2010 article by Venier, Hites and two Clemson University researchers also reported high levels of PBDEs in nesting bald eagles.

Fire engine dog

I'm a widdle fire twuck, all weddy to go! Beep Beep!

Venier said the evidence shows dogs metabolize the compounds more rapidly than cats. A previous study showed that dogs produce an enzyme that breaks down organochlorine pesticides, and a similar mechanism may be at work with brominated compounds.

firefighter dog

I iz reddy to kick sum ass, damnit!

The current study also detected newer flame retardants that have come onto the market as PBDEs have been removed, including Dechlorane Plus, decabromodiphenylethane, and hexabromocyclododecane. The chemicals are largely unregulated but pose concerns because they are structurally similar to organic pollutants that have been linked to environmental and human health effects.

“The concentrations of these newer flame retardants were relatively low compared to the PBDEs,” Venier said, “but the fact that they are new and not regulated suggests their levels are going to increase in the future.”

Source: Indiana University April 26, 2011, Marta Venier and Ronald A. Hites, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University

The study can be read online at

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I won't rescue anything till I get my noms.

Elevated PBDE Levels in Pet Cats: Sentinels for Humans?

PBDEs have been used since the late 1970s as flame retardants in upholstered furniture, carpet padding, and electronics. During the same time period, feline hyperthyroidism has gone from being almost never reported to being a common disease in older cats, prompting researchers to wonder if there was a connection. The chemicals have been shown in lab tests to impair thyroid and liver function.

Cat fire rescue fireman

Put me the f%$& down, NOW!

Co-incident with the introduction of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) into household materials nearly 30 years ago, feline hyperthyroidism (FH) has increased dramatically. Risk of developing FH is associated with indoor living and consumption of canned cat food. We hypothesized that increases in FH were, in part, related to increased PBDE exposure, with key routes of exposure being diet and ingestion of house dust. This study was designed to determine whether body burdens of PBDEs in hyperthyroid (HT) cats were greater than that of young or sick non-HT cats. Serum samples and clinical information were collected from 23 cats. Serum and dry and canned cat food were analyzed for PBDEs. A spectrum of BDE congeners was detected in all cats, with BDE-47, 99, 207, and 209 predominating.

cat fire rescue

I love you for rescuing me, but just put me down NOW.

Venier and Hites also tested dry and canned cat food purchased at a Bloomington discount store and found surprisingly high concentrations of PBDEs in some varieties.

Both dry and canned food samples were tested, accounting for a variety of “flavors” such as turkey, beef, chicken and seafood. Interestingly, dry food showed on average higher concentrations than canned food. Among the “flavors” tested, the highest amount of PBDEs was found in the seafood based ones.

Overall, PBDE levels in cats were 20- to 100-fold greater than median levels in U.S. adults. Our results support the hypothesis that cats are highly exposed to PBDEs; hence, pet cats may serve as sentinels to better assess human exposure and adverse health outcomes related to low-level but chronic PBDE exposure.

Source: Indiana University, Hites’ Laboratory

Publication: Environ. Sci. Technol, 41 (18) 6350-6356 (2007); with Dye, J. A., Venier, M., Zhu, L., Ward, C. R., and Birnbaum, L. S.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEsCat Disease Linked To Flame Retardants In Furniture And To Pet Food

A mysterious epidemic of thyroid disease among pet cats in the United States may be linked to exposure to dust shed from flame retardants in household carpeting, furniture, fabrics and pet food, scientists are reporting in a new study.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I know, I'm hot. What can I say, chicks just love firecats. Get over it.

Veterinarian and toxicologist Janice A. Dye of the Environmental Protection Agencyin Research Triangle Park, N.C., realized that indoor cats-already known to be at high risk of hyperthyroidism-consume a lot of dust when they groom themselves. Data have suggested that sick cats are also more likely than healthy felines to

have eaten canned cat food, especially fish varieties.

Dye’s team tested blood samples from 23 cats, including 11 with hyperthyroidism. Although all carried PBDEs, the animals with the thyroid disease had higher average concentrations. Sick cats and well cats also had different mixes of PBDEs, the researchers report in an upcoming Environmental Science & Technology.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

It works every time: get in tree, get rescued by hot fireman. God, life is good.

Tests of 20 types of dry and wet cat foods showed that all contained PBDEs, although canned, fish-flavored food had the highest amounts and could deliver 12 times as much of the chemicals as dry foods typically did. The canned, fish-flavored foods also had concentrations of PBDEs that were up to 100 times as high as those in the human diet.

In addition, the researchers suspected that diet might be another risk factor for developing FH. To see if a link existed, they analyzed PBDE content in several cat food brands.

Their analysis found that PBDE content of canned fish/seafood flavors, such as salmon and whitefish, was higher than dry or non-seafood canned items. Based on the analysis, they estimate that diets based on canned food could have PBDE levels 12 times as high as dry-food diets. The researchers indicate that pet cats might be receiving as much as 100 times greater dietary PBDE exposure than American adults.

“It sure as heck looks like there’s something going on,” says coauthor Linda S. Birnbaum of EPA. “Our data beg for additional studies.”

Source:  Science News, 8/25/2007, Vol. 172 Issue 8, p125-126; , 2p/

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs
I lub yu Mr. Firemen. Yu iz mai heroez.

Midnight’s Legacy

My beloved cat, Midnight, died a few days ago — possibly because of toxic chemicals in my furniture. In two years with hyperthyroid disease, Midnight went from a plump 14 pounds to a skeletal five. A year ago, a veterinary epidemiologist found that Midnight’s blood contained among the highest levels of PBDEs documented in animal research. That’s when I learned that the chemicals in my cat came from my couch. And that my furniture is uniquely toxic because I live in California.


Oh Lordy Moses thank you Jesus I lived

Since the 1980s, fire-retardant chemicals such as PBDEs have been added to furniture to meet a California-only requirement that the foam inside resist a 12-second exposure to an open flame. The chemicals evaporate from the foam, settle in dust and coat walls with a thin film. Cats that groom themselves and toddlers who crawl in dust show especially high levels of PBDEs, but everyone with this chemically treated furniture gets some exposure.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEsIn dozens of animal studies, these fire retardants also have been shown to harm reproduction and scramble brain development. Studies are underway to determine if PBDEs are contributing to increases in autism, hyperactivity, birth defects, infertility, diabetes and obesity in people.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

Tank u Mr. Firemanz. Yu sabed mai life.

On average, dust in California homes contains 10 times the PBDEs found in dust from other states and 200 times the amount in houses in Europe, according to a new study from the Silent Spring Institute. Worse, Californians have twice the level of this fire retardant in their blood as do people in other states. A recent research report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group showed that American toddlers have, on average, a level of fire retardant in their bodies that is three times higher than that found in their mothers.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs
Every evening for the last year, I put a needle into Midnight’s scruff to give her fluids to keep her alive. As I watched the slow drip of the liquid, I wondered whether the PBDEs in my cat caused her disease. The fire retardant is known to cause thyroid problems in rats, mice, kestrels and frogs. The EPA suspected a link after its 2007 study of cats found substantially higher levels of PBDEs in the ones with hyperthyroidism. In 1980, when PBDEs were first added to furniture, hyperthyroid disease in cats hardly existed, according to my veterinarian. Now it is an epidemic in California.

Kitten rescue fireman

Oh mercy, you iz mai hero for ebber an ebber!

Were Midnight and my family safer from fires because of the toxic chemicals in our couch? Probably not. Furniture fabric in California is not required to be fire resistant. In a fire, fabric burns long enough to ignite even treated foam.

Happily, the death rate from house fires has gone down considerably in California since 1980. But it’s dropped a similar amount or more in states that don’t require retardants in their furniture. A decrease in smoking, more smoke detectors and better enforcement of fire safety standards are credited with this large decrease in fire deaths.

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

What? I'm just waiting for that hunky fireman. Again.

San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno’s AB 706, a bill that sought to remove toxic fire retardants from California furniture and maintain fire safety, was just voted down by the state Senate. Manufacturers of fire retardants — Chemtura Corp., Albemarle Corp. and Israel Chemicals Ltd. — spent millions on lobbying to stop it.

kitten rescue fire fireman

I lub yu Mr. Fireman, pleze don put me down jus yet. I likes yu.

Instead, more Californians may soon be sleeping in a cocoon of chemicals. Technical Bulletin 604, a proposed state regulation requiring comforters, mattress pads and pillows to resist an open flame, is expected to be enacted soon by the California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation. Yet the state has not asked for any information on the health or environmental effects of the chemicals likely to be used.

kitten cats rescue fire firewoman

Firemommies are da bests, almost as gud as firedaddies. Firedaddies are jus cuter.

As I stroked Midnight before she died, I thought about the canary in the coal mine warning of lethal gases. Perhaps the story of Midnight’s death can help protect us all from unneeded toxic fire retardants in our homes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has the authority and responsibility to protect our health. He should instruct the bureau to stop California from being the only state requiring flame-retardant bed coverings, pillows and furniture. It’s too late for Midnight, but hopefully our governor will withstand chemical industry pressure and act to protect our cats and our children from unneeded toxic chemicals in our homes.

Credit: Arlene Blum is executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Oct 17, 2008. pg. A.29

Fire Cat Fireman Flame Retardant PBDEs

I told you he'd come.

Diet Contributes Significantly to the Body Burden of PBDEs in the General U.S. Population

The conclusion of a resent study offers the first large-scale look at the effect of the American diet on PBDE body burdens, showing significant associations with poultry and red meat consumption. PBDEs may enter the food chain in several ways, including contamination of food during processing or packaging and general contamination of the environment via emissions of PBDEs at various points of the life cycle of consumer products. As PBDE-containing products continue to degrade and enter the waste stream in larger amounts, future exposure to PBDEs may begin to shift more heavily from the indoor environment to the outdoor environment and, consequently, the diet (Harrad and Diamond 2006). This study highlights the need for research into the pathways of PBDEs into the food supply, particularly commercial animal products in the United States.

Source: Journal Environmental Health Perspectives

Authors: Alicia J. Fraser, Thomas F. Webster, Michael D. McClean, Boston University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health

See my other articles on PBDEs: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Flame Proof Butter and Are Fluffy and Fido Now Fire Retardant and Stain-Proof?

Environmental Science & Technology

Environmental Science & Technology

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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