Science Inventory

The Pet Connection. Use of pets as sentinels to better integrate data on endocrine health effects of persistent environmental contaminants.


DYE, J. A., M. Venier, R. A. HITES, AND L. S. BIRNBAUM. The Pet Connection. Use of pets as sentinels to better integrate data on endocrine health effects of persistent environmental contaminants. . Presented at Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry National meeting, Tampa, FL, November 16 - 20, 2008.


This goal of the session is to improve the cross-talk between researchers using ecologic, toxicologic, and human epidemiologic approaches to understanding the health effects related to exposure to persistent environmental contaminants such of the brominated flame retardants and other POPs.


Many pets, cats in particular, spend virtually all their lives within the family domicile, thus paralleling their owner’s low-level but chronic exposure to a variety of indoor contaminants. Owing to their shorter life-spans and shorter latency periods, associations between contaminant exposure (i.e., lead, mercury, ETS, pesticides, and asbestos) and adverse health outcome (i.e., chronic disease states or cancer) can be identified in less time than is possible with strictly human-based epidemiologic studies. Accordingly, we recently evaluated serum levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in pet cats to explore possible links between exposure to these flame-retardant materials and development of feline hyperthyroidism (FH). PBDEs are known endocrine disruptors, and FH, a condition analogous to toxic nodular goiter in humans, was virtually unknown three decades ago. It is currently the most common endocrinopathy in cats. Importantly, increases in FH coincided with the advent and global use of PBDEs. Our data indicated that all cats were significantly exposed to PBDEs  with young healthy cats having PBDE levels that were ~20-times greater than median values reported for U.S. adults; while several older cats with FH had levels that were ≥ 100-times greater. Based on PBDE congener profiles, it was apparent that diet (mainly fish and seafood canned products) and house dust (presumably via ingestion when grooming) were the primary sources of exposure. House cats have direct and prolonged contact with PBDE-containing materials in the indoor environment (i.e., upholstery, carpeting, mattresses, electronic equipment). We conclude that use of pets as sentinels can improve integration of human and ecological research on persistent environmental contaminants, leading to improving understanding of the relative risk related to low-level chronic exposure which may lead to a cumulative body burden, and adverse endocrine health outcome.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 11/17/2008
Record Last Revised: 01/30/2009
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 197744