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No Protection for Pets

By Linda Wilson Fuoco:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Forty-five percent of pet products tested “had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals.”

Our 4-year old cocker spaniel is all but obsessed with tennis balls. Throw one indoors or outside and Pablo will endlessly play fetch or keep away, depending on his mood. When people won’t play ball with him, he’ll carry it in his mouth. Sometimes he drops the ball and chases it on his own.

So imagine my dismay when I received a news release stating that lead was found in 48 percent of the tennis balls tested by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit environmental group in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Tennis balls made or intended for pets were much more likely to contain lead. Real tennis balls or sports tennis balls contained no lead,” it said.

So it appears that dogs are inhaling toxins through their noses and ingesting them through their mouths.

Pablo’s favorite balls are the ones made for use on tennis courts. They seem to bounce higher. I put the pet store balls in the trash after I read the release.

Last month the Ecology Center announced it’s “first ever guide to toxic chemicals in pet products” at www.HealthyStuff.org. Researchers tested more than 400 pet beds, chew toys, stuffed toys for dogs and cats, collars, leashes and tennis balls.

“Since there are no government standards for hazardous chemicals in pet products, it is not surprising that there were alarming levels of toxic chemicals found,” according to the news release.

Forty-five percent of pet products tested by HealthyStuff.org “had detectable levels of lead and 7 percent had lead levels greater than 300 parts per million, the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard for lead in children’s products.

Nearly half of the pet collars tested had detectable levels of lead and 27 percent exceeded 300 ppm, the report said.

I’ve been looking for pet-product ratings since 2007 after the government recalled children’s toys with high levels of lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not regulate pet products, a spokesman told me then, adding, “I do not know who does regulate them.”

So now we have the www.HealthyStuff.org site. The site names names. You can see the brand name of the manufacturer and the name of the product. Chemicals found in the product are listed, along with rating of toxicity: none, low, medium or high.

The chemicals tested for include lead, arsenic, mercury, bromine and chlorine, which is often added to plastics. These chemicals are linked to cancer, liver toxicity, reproductive and kidney problems, brain damage and blood and nerve disorders, according to the Ecology Center.

The Ecology Center, founded in 1970, has expanded its efforts in the past 15 years, research director Jeff Gearhart said. It has 15 employees plus outside contractors.

“We have a science team, and we work with academic researchers. We depend a lot on graduate students” at nearby University of Michigan. “The science behind our work is very solid,” Gearhart said.

The organization is independent, he said, with no links to industry. Funding comes from donations and nonprofit foundations.

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