Study Claims Cats & Toddlers Exposed To Dangerous Chemical Found In Everyday Household Products

Many precautions go into the creation of our everyday household objects, such as our furniture and electronics, but the flame retardants that are supposed to improve fire safety could instead impose a health hazard.

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Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are commonly added to plastics to make them flame-proof, but they're also found in electronics, paint, furniture polish, and more.

A recent study from Stockholm University published in the journal </ahref="http:>Environmental Science and Technology reported elevated levels of brominated biphenyl, BB-209, in cats that have developed hyperthyroidism, a disease that affects the entire nervous system and organs, including eyes, kidneys, heart, and brain.

A cat laying on a couch.
Is your couch dangerous to your cat?
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Jana Weiss, from Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, in a recent statement said, "The brominated flame retardants that have been measured in cats are known endocrine disruptors."

Molecular compound of bromiated biphenyl.
Bromiated biphenyl compound BB-209.
credit: Green Chemicals

According to a major investigation by the Chicago Tribune, the hazardous flame retardants aren't even effective in preventing fire, but they are toxic and known to significantly alter neurodevelopment.

The European Union has banned the use of certain BFRs, but other countries have yet to enact restrictions. In the United States, industrial chemicals are presumed safe unless proved otherwise, under the 1976 federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

Stockholm University is currently running an ongoing investigation on not just the cats, but also the possible effect on humans. The MiSSE — Mixture aSSessment of Endocrine disrupting compounds with emphasis on thyroidogenicity — uses cats as a model for human exposure to BFR and plans to research how household dust contributes to buildup of toxic levels, and how these compounds can disrupt the thyroid hormone.

Tiny boy playing with ginger cat house.
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Breaking News reports these compounds may also pose a danger to toddlers and their health.

While cats ingest the compounds through buildup of dust and grooming themselves, children are also at risk because of their tendency to put everything in their mouths.

"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 in the Stockholm University Press release.

The proposed continued study will investigate BB-209 and possible exposure sources, especially as it does not occur naturally in humans.

With recent research and the significant findings directly correlating health to these dangerous chemicals, progress is being made towards regulations to protect you (and your cats) from BFRs.