“Our findings suggest that pets are coming into contact with aromatic amines that leach from products in their household environment,” said study author Sridhar Chinthakindi, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
“As these substances have been tied to bladder, colorectal and other forms of cancer, our results may help explain why so many dogs and cats develop such diseases,” he said in an NYU news release.
Aromatic amines are the chemicals found in tobacco smoke and in dyes used in cosmetics, textiles and plastics. The study ruled out tobacco smoke as a major source of pet exposure in this study, but found that nearly 70% of dogs and 80% of cats had detectable levels of an aromatic amine that previous research has shown occurs when a common flea control medication breaks down.
In total, the team analyzed the samples for 30 different kinds of aromatic amines and nicotine. The researchers found eight types of aromatic amines in the stool samples. They also found traces of the chemicals in more than 38% of urine samples taken from a separate group of pets.
They found that cats had triple the concentrations of aromatic amines in their urine, though they do not break down many compounds as efficiently as dogs do.
The animals had similar exposure to the toxins whether they lived in homes, shelters or were staying at an animal hospital.
It’s not clear what aromatic amine levels can be safely tolerated by pets, noted senior study author Kurunthachalam Kannan, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone.
“Since pets are smaller and more sensitive to toxins, they serve as excellent ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for assessing chemical risks to human health,” Kannan said in the release. “If they are getting exposed to toxins in our homes, then we had better take a closer look at our own exposure.”
The findings highlight how common these substances are and how difficult they are to avoid, Chinthakindi said.
The study authors had previously measured other hormone-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates, melamine and bisphenols in pet urine. Next, they plan to explore the link between aromatic amine exposure and bladder, thyroid and testicular cancer in pets.
The findings were published online March 30 in the journal Environment International.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has more on cancer in pets.
SOURCE: NYU Langone Health, news release, March 31, 2022
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