Of all the countries in the world, the United States is the number one producer of chemical products. From cleaners to lubricants to pesticides, the U.S. mass-produces chemical goods for domestic and international consumption. It’s no wonder that an incredible 3 billion tons of hazardous chemicals and waste are shipped every year — and those are just the chemicals that we know are hazardous to our health.
Not all of the chemicals we produce are actually tested for safety. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been properly tested for their effects on human health. And humans aren’t the only ones at risk.
According to a recent article published by Health Day, household chemicals could be harming our pets’ health as well. Specifically, some chemicals in carpeting and upholstery could be damaging cats’ thyroids.
The chemicals under investigation are known as PFAs, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. Carpeting and fabric companies have used PFAs to prevent carpet fibers from absorbing oil and water.
Although many companies have begun phasing out PFAs from their products, the chemicals are still present in many homes. Humans and animals alike can ingest PFAs in food, water, and through dust in the air.
As recently reported in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, researchers observed the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on hyperthyroidism in cats. The study found that high counts of PFAs in the bloodstream were linked to greater instances of hyperthyroidism, meaning the chemicals caused feline thyroids to become overactive.
According to lead researcher Dr. Miaomiao Wang of the California Environmental Protect Agency, studying cats can provide insight for similar health problems in humans, specifically in toddlers, who are more likely to ingest PFAs due to how to they interact with their environment.
An untreated overactive thyroid can lead to severe health consequences in both humans and cats. Kidney disease, kidney failure, elevated blood pressure, and increased risk for blood clots in organs were all potential effects of feline hyperthyroidism caused by PFAs.
U.S. consumer culture has been caught up in an ongoing and increasing wariness of chemical products in their homes. In a 2016 article from CNN, various researchers reported that widespread chemical presence and use in homes threatened healthy human reproduction.
CNN’s article listed several dangerous chemicals found in homes, including organophosphate pesticides, phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, air pollutants, and lead. Studies of these chemicals showed that their effects vary widely, from increased hyperactivity in children, to congenital heart problems, to lower IQ scores. PFAs may just be one type of chemical in a long list of harmful substances that reside alongside humans.
While Dr. Wang stated that further research on PFAs and their effects on human and animal health need to be conducted, companies have already reduced PFA use in many household items. Wang told Health Day that throughout several years of studies of cat thyroids, the later groups had lower numbers of PFAs in their bloodstream because of company chemical cutbacks.
According to data from the Department of Justice, product liability cases account for 5% of personal injury cases. And while there have been major class action lawsuits against companies who knew chemicals in their products were dangerous, these types of cases are rare. Filing on behalf of your cat… that’s not likely to impress many judges.
Though these findings are promising, ultimately, PFAs are still in use throughout many products today. Only time will tell what the lasting impacts of PFA usage may be, for both people and their pets.