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Blog Action Day: Global Warming – Toxic Chemical Contribution

Pet parents are concerned about the environment and responsible pet product manufacturers are sitting up and listening. From the natural resources and energy it takes to create a either a toy, treat, or accessory, to the raw materials used, manufacturers are wise to consider the final impact their product has on the environment, the pets who use them, and the buyers who are becoming increasingly selective with their purchasing dollars. Most alarming, the very same toxic chemicals that are damaging our planet and contributing to global warming are finding their way into our homes and into our pets and children.

Thankfully, there are organizations that are leading the way when it comes to discovering the hidden dangers that await our beloved companion animals. The Ecology Center, a nonprofit research organization, has released the first-ever guide to toxic chemicals in pet products ( Researchers tested over 400 pet products, including pet beds, chew toys, stuffed toys, collars, leashes and tennis balls.

Photo of a Coleman Pet Bed

Here is a snapshot of their frightening results:

45% of pet products tested by had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals, including:

  • One-quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead.
  • 7% of all pet products had lead levels greater than 300 ppm — the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for lead in children’s products.
  • Nearly half of pet collars had detectable levels of lead; with 27% exceeding 300 ppm — the CPSC limit for lead in children’s products.
  • One half (48%) of tennis balls tested had detectable levels of lead. Tennis balls intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead. Sports tennis balls contained no lead.

These findings are part of a larger effort to test toxic chemicals in everyday products. In addition to pet products the Ecology Center tested cars, children’s carseats, back-to-school supplies, women’s handbags and more.  All of the results can be found at

“These chemical hazards are as real for pets as they are for humans,” said Gearhart.  “While there are some protections in place for children, there is no regulatory system in place to protect our pets from these hazards.”

To sample the pet products, experts at the Ecology Center used a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, which identifies the elemental composition of any material in less than 60 seconds.

Bromine: Associated with the use of brominated flame retardants, BFRs are added to plastics in order to impart fire resistance.  Levels of some BFRs in cats are up to 23-times higher than humans. Some BFRs have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes, and other health problems.

Lead: Lead is sometimes used as an additive in plastics.  Exposure can lead to a number of potential health effects including brain damage, and problems with the kidneys, blood, nerves, and reproductive system.  It can also cause learning and behavioral problems.  Lead exposure and poisoning in pets is common and can be an indicator of lead hazards in homes and products.

Reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act

In response to increasing consumer demand for safer products, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Bobby Rush are expected to introduce a new bill this Congressional session to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the current federal law for regulating chemicals.   These reforms would phase out the most dangerous chemicals from the manufacturing process; require industry to take responsibility for the safety of their products; and use the best science to protect vulnerable groups.  To date the EPA has only required testing on about 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals that have been on the market since the law was passed 33 years ago.

“A Made in the USA label should be a guarantee, not a warning,” said Charlotte Brody, National Field Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition working toward toxic chemical policy reform.  “This database of products is further proof that our system of testing and regulating toxic chemicals is broken. We have an opportunity to reform federal law this year and start putting common sense limits on harmful chemicals to protect the health of Americans.”

Photo credit: / The Ecology Center

We’ll be following the additions to the site and encourage you to do the same.

Take the next step and join the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign. Send your representatives a letter encouraging them to support a reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.