A Common Household Chemical Likely to Cause Hyperthyroidism:

November 22, 2013 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

The prevalence of hyperthyroidism increased noticeably in previous decades.(1) Today, an estimated one out of ten mature cats will develop the disease. Hyperthyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid glands over-produce metabolism-stimulating hormones. This can cause high blood pressure, an enlarged heart, and an inability to maintain weight. A study conducted at the University of Illinois suggests that a chemical very common in homes may be causing hyperthyroidism in cats.(2) Here are some things you should know about keeping your cats and dogs safe from this chemical.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardant chemicals commonly used in furniture (especially foam) and electronics. The chemicals leak into the household environment when the foam starts breaking down, or when the appliances heat up. PBDEs are known to disrupt thyroid function.

The recent University of Illinois study did blood tests to compare the PBDE concentrations of household cats with the PBDE in the blood of feral cats. The blood concentrations are much higher for household cats, suggesting that cats are being exposed to PBDE at home. They also measured the concentration of PBDE in household dust. In homes where cats had normal thyroid function, the PBDE concentration in the dust was 510 to 4,900 ng/g. In the homes of hyperthyroid cats, the PBDE concentration in household dust was 1,100 to 95,000 ng/g. The correlation between PBDE in household dust and hyperthyroidism in cats suggests that this flame retardant is leaching into the household dust and disrupting the cats’ endocrine systems.

Dogs are exposed to the PBDE as well, but seem to have less trouble with it. One likely explanation is that cats groom the dust off themselves and likely ingest more of the PBDE.

Here are some strategies for reducing your pets’ exposure to PBDE: . Dust and vacuum in a way that captures the dust (i.e. wet cloth and filtered vacuum).
. Ten years after a Swedish study discovered that PBDEs were accumulating in human breast milk, the European Union banned PBDEs in 2008. Therefore, purchasing household electronics made for European retail will help you avoid PBDEs. In response to the EU ban, these companies pledged to phase out all brominated fire retardants: Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba.
. PBDEs were banned in U.S. *furniture* manufacture in 2005. Consider replacing foamed items that are older than 2005. This would include mattress pads, furniture, car seats, carpet padding, breast feeding pillows, etc.
. Be cautious of other fire-retardant chemicals that may simply not have the same level of research and scrutiny that PBDE has received. Replace or repair any foam item with a ripped cover. Replace any item with foam that is breaking down. Pay particular attention to car seats and other items that may be designed with exposed foam. Consider a HEPA filter for your house and / or vacuum cleaner. When purchasing new products, try to determine what fire retardant was used. Be wary of any brominated fire retardant, not just the well-studied PBDE. A form of PBDE common to electronics manufacturing is called Deca.
. When removing carpet padding, use a HEPA filter to capture all the dust the deteriorating padding may be releasing into your house.

1. Ediboro C, Scott-Moncreiff C, Jaovitz E, et al. Epidemiologic study of relationships between consumption of commercial canned food and risk of hyperthyroidism in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2004; 224 (6): 879-886.
2. Mensching D, Slater M, Scott J, et al. The feline thyroid gland: a model for endocrine disruption by polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)? J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2012; 75 (4): 201-12.

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