High Levels of Chemicals Found in Indoor Cats May 26 2017

A recent study done at Stockholm University revealed indoor cats have dangerously high levels of chemicals, specifically brominated flame retardants in their blood.

The study has been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Scientists concluded the chemicals found in household items like electronics, carpets and furniture, enters a cat's blood stream through dust in the home. Cat's are especially susceptible to these chemicals, which can adversely affect their health.

Previous research has shown that these flame retardants have been associated with feline hyperthyroidism. 

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine, which can accelerate the body's metabolism causing sudden weight loss, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, sweating and nervousness or irritability. 


Brominated flame retardants (BFR's) are a mixture of chemicals that are added to a wide range of products to make them less flammable. But some types of BFR's persist in the environment and there are concerns that they pose a public health risk. 

BFR treated products such as furniture leach BFR's into the environment and can contaminate surrounding areas.  The chemicals leach out into the air and eventually become dust. Children and pets are exposed to higher doses of flame retardants because they spend more time on the floor.

Cat's are most at risk than dogs because not only are they are breathing in the dust from the floor and hard surfaces, but also because their fur picks up and holds the dust and the chemicals then enter the stomach and bloodstream when licking and grooming themselves. 

"By taking paired samples, we have greater insight into the environment that the cats live in. Moreover the cats in the study spent the majority of their time indoors and therefore air and dust in the home is expected to contribute more than the outdoor environment," says Jana Weiss at the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University.

The results are very interesting because small children, notorious for putting everything in their mouths, have exposures to these chemicals similar to cats.

"The brominated flame retardants that have been measured in cats are known endocrine disruptors. It's particularly serious when small children ingest these substances because exposure during the development can have consequences later in life, such as thyroid disease," says Jana Weiss.

Brominated flame retardants are added to textiles, furniture and electronic equipment to prevent the material from igniting. Many of the brominated flame retardants have been found to be health hazards, and some are suspected endocrine disruptors.

A number of them have been prohibited for these reasons in products like electronic goods. However, they are extremely persistent and can leach from the products for many years after they have been produced, ultimately becoming part of dust.

 Reducing flame retardants in your home will greatly improve overexposure. 

Here are 5 tips to reduce flame retardant exposure in your home:

1. Go natural. Whenever possible, buy natural flame resistant materials such as wool, polyester and down. Read material labels carefully before buying new home furnishings.

2. If it's ripped, fix it. Foam is highly concentrated with flame retardants, so always make sure it is not exposed in carpets, pillows and furniture.

3. Keep dust at bay. Vacuum regularly with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. Mop and wipe surfaces with warm soapy water. Having an air filter in your home will do wonders as well.

4. Wash hands regularly. Studies have shown that washing hands (as well as children's) greatly reduces the amount of flame retardants that enter our bodies. While it may sound silly, you can also do this with your cat. After you have vacuumed and mopped the floors, give your cat's paws a little wipe with a wet cloth. 

5. Ventilate indoor spaces. Keeping windows open and airing out rooms as much as possible, will help to move and reduce flame retardants present in the home.