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Joe Reppucci of Lexington, Mass., writes about dogs and keeping them a healthy part of the family. He has worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years and is a graduate of Lexington High School ...
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The Dog Blog
Joe Reppucci of Lexington, Mass., writes about dogs and keeping them a healthy part of the family. He has worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years and is a graduate of Lexington High School and of Suffolk University in Boston. He writes often about nutrition, behavior and saving money on pet supplies and insurance.
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 Are your pet's items on the high-toxin list?


Many popular dog and cat items - like bowls, collars, leashes, beds, chew and tug toys and tennis balls - contain high levels of toxic chemicals that may be putting your pet at risk of liver, kidney and brain damage as well as cancer, an environmental research organization warns.

Nearly half the 400 toys and products tested had detectable levels of lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVCs) or bromine flame retardants, according to the Ecology Center of Michigan.

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"These chemical hazards are as real for pets as they are for humans," Jeff Gearhart, the center's research director, states in a media release. "While there are some protections in place for children, there is no regulatory system in place to protect our pets from these hazards."

Pets are smaller than humans, making them extremely vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure because they only need to ingest small amounts of contaminated dust to be affected, the Ecology Center says.

"Pets are involuntary canaries in the coal mine in terms of chemical exposure," Mr. Gearhart said. "Pets, like children, have higher exposure to chemical hazards and our data shows pet products are far more likely to have hazardous chemicals than children’s toys."

The Ecology Center says 45 percent of the pet products that it tested had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals. Researchers found:

  • 25 percent had detectable levels of lead.
  • 7 percent had lead levels greater than the 300 parts per million standard for lead in children’s products set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Nearly 50 percent of pet collars had detectable levels of lead and 27 percent exceeded 300 ppm.
  • 48 percent of tennis balls tested had detectable levels of lead. Tennis balls intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead while sports tennis balls contained no lead.
Experts at the Ecology Center used a portable X-ray fluorescence device, which identifies the elemental composition of any material, to sample the pet products. Chemicals of primary concern include bromine, which is associated with flame retardants; chlorine, which indicates the presence of polyvinyl chloride or PVC; lead and heavy metals. 

According to the Ecology Center, levels of bromine flame retardants in cats are up to 23 times higher than humans. Some bromine flame retardants have been associated with thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes and other health problems.

Lead exposure and poisoning in pets is common and can be an indicator of lead hazards in homes and products, the Ecology Center says. Exposure to lead, which is sometimes used as an additive in plastics, can lead to brain damage, and problems with kidneys, blood, nerves and the reproductive system. It can also cause learning and behavioral problems. 

“Parents, including parents of furry, four-legged kids, shouldn’t have to worry whether the toys they buy are harmful,” Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, campaign director with the Washington Toxics Coalition, states in a media release. “People are sick and tired of hearing about toxic toys, toxic chew toys, toxic chemicals in their products. We need a better system of laws that doesn’t require people to be chemists before they buy something.”

The Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law which regulates chemicals, is in need of reform, Ms. Sager-Rosenthal said. “It shouldn’t be the responsibility of public health advocates to test consumer products for basic safety information. Manufacturers of these products need to step up and replace dangerous substances with safer alternatives and legislators must enact laws to ensure harmful chemicals are not allowed in products.”

According to the Ecology Center, the following products, listed on healthystuff.org, are those that had the highest levels of chemicals:

High Level of Detection


Cinopelca brown dog collar; Coleman Classic rectangular dog bed (small 18 by 24 inches; Coolaroo Pet Medium Bed; Hot Dogs blue multi-bones collar, Hot Dogs dark pink multi-flowers collar, Hot Dogs red skulls collar, Hot Dogs puppy flowers collar, Hot Dogs puppy paws collar, Nap Pet Kennel Bed (19 by 12 inches green); Penn-Plax Purr Pet Wiggle Wand toy for cats; Pet Supplies Plus tennis ball; Play N Squeak "Batting Practice" toy for cats; Play N Squeak "Twice the Mice" toy for cats; Purple Painted charm dog collar; Ringer Zinger Ring chew toy/tug; Spot Party Animal 6-inch dog dish; SS Ortho Care fleece top for 40 by 30-inch pet bed.

Medium Level of Detection


Burrow Pet Bed (25 inches); AirKong Squeaker football/medium tennis balls; Bamboo Feed & Toss bowl and liners; Bamboo Feed & Toss dog diner and liners bowl; Bone Dog Bed; Brake Fast feeding bowl; Canine "plus" dog chew/tug toy bug; Cinopelca red dog collar; Bagel Donut dog pet bed (extra large 52'' inches and large 40 inches); Fleecy Cleans fleece dog toy tennis ball knot tug (24 inches); Gizmo tennis balls for dogs; Hot Dogs collar (black multi-flowers); Kool Pet Club Pet Paws 8-inch bowl; Le Bistro feeder; Mint 3-pack tennis balls; Nap Pet Beds Bolster 21 by 30 inches; Nap Pet Beds Cat Cave (cream/khaki and light blue/chocolate); Penn-Plax Purr Pet Tiger Tail Wand cat play toy; Perfect Plush Pillow pet bed (26 by 41 inches); PestStages multi-texture chew ring; Pet Buddies Pooch tube chew/tug toy; Pet-Rageous Designs feeding bowls (multiple styles and sizes); Petco rectangle bed (30 by 40 by 4 inches Brown); Petmate Café Water Tank; PetStages Feathered Fun toy for cats; Play N Squeak "Elastomouse" toy for cats; Play N Squeak "Ruff 'n Tumble Mouse" toy for cats; Smarty Kat Wild Streak Wand with Feather attachment toy for cats; Solidcore Dumbbell tennis ball toy for dogs; Spot Tuscan fluted dog dish (blue or lime 5-inch); ToyShoppe Playables tennis balls for dogs; YAP Dog (Peluchi) Giraffe 22-inch oval pet bed.





According to the Ecology Center, 226 pet toys and products were found to have low levels of detection.

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