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Environmental News

"EARTH TALK"

From the Editors of E / The Environmental Magazine

THIS WEEK'S COLUMN

Dear EarthTalk: What are some tips for keeping my dogs and cats healthy?
—Kim Newfield, via e-mail

Pets ingest pollutants and pesticide residues and breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants just like children do -- and since they develop and age seven or more times faster than children, pets develop health problems from exposures much faster.

Photo © Hemera Collection

Believe it or not, our pets may be exposed to more harsh chemicals through the course of their day than we are. Researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that pet dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.

“Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do their pets,” reports EWG. Since they develop and age seven or more times faster than children, pets also develop health problems from exposures much faster, EWG adds.

“Average levels of many chemicals were substantially higher in pets than is typical for people, with 2.4 times higher levels of stain- and grease-proof coatings (perfluorochemicals) in dogs, 23 times more fire retardants (PBDEs) in cats, and more than five times the amounts of mercury, compared to average levels in people,” reports the group. Their 2008 study looked at plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats tested at a Virginia veterinary clinic.

“For dogs, blood and urine samples were contaminated with 35 chemicals altogether, including 11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins,” adds EWG. This is particularly alarming given that man’s best friend is known to have much higher cancer rates than humans. A 2008 Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center study found that dogs have 35 times more skin cancer, four times more breast tumors, eight times more bone cancer, and two times more leukemia per capita as humans. And according to researchers from Purdue University, cancer is the second leading cause of death for dogs, with about one in four canines succumbing to some form of the disease. Meanwhile, hyperthyroidism—a condition which many think is on the rise in felines due to chemical exposures—is already a leading cause of illness for older cats.

In its Pets for the Environment website, EWG lists dozens of ways for pet owners to ensure that dogs and cats are as safe as possible in this dangerous world we inhabit. Among other tips, EWG recommends choosing pet food without chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin, and looking for organic or free-range ingredients rather than by-products. As for drinking water, EWG suggests running tap water through a reverse osmosis filter—either faucet-mounted or pitcher-based—before it goes into a pet’s bowl to remove common contaminants. Also, replacing old bedding or furniture, especially if it has exposed foam, can prevent pets from ingesting fire retardants. From avoiding non-stick pans and garden pesticides to choosing greener kitty litter and decking material, the list of tips goes on.

Taking steps to ensure a safer environment for pets—some 63 percent of U.S. homes have at least one—will mean a safer world for humans, too. EWG concludes that our pets “well may be serving as sentinels for our own health, as they breathe in, ingest or absorb the same chemicals that are in our environments.”

CONTACT: EWG Pets for the Environment

 
A NEW SET OF ANSWERS IS FEATURED EACH WEEK!

 

Dear EarthTalk: What is the purpose of National Wildlife Week, which I understand will take place in March 2013?
—Melissa P., Burlington, NJ

National Wildlife Week is March 18-24 this year. The theme is “Branching Out for Wildlife,” with a focus on how wildlife depend upon trees for survival. Pictured: A pair of Northern Cardinals on a tree branch.

Photo © iStockPhoto

National Wildlife Week is a program of the non-profit National Wildlife Federation (NWF) that is designed around teaching and connecting kids to the wonders of wildlife. Each year, the group picks a theme and provides fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with their kids.

This coming March 18-24 (2013), the theme of National Wildlife Week is “Branching Out for Wildlife” with a focus on trees. Participating kids will learn about the parts of a tree, the role of trees and how wildlife depend on trees for survival. They can also participate in environmental service projects addressing climate change, healthy habitats, reforestation and connecting with the environment.

Teachers, instructors, coaches and parents can sign up with NWF and get a wide range of free resources—lesson plans, posters, trading cards, etc.—to help spread the educational messages of National Wildlife Week into school curricula, after-school and even at-home activities.

2013 marks the 75th year NWF has run National Wildlife Week, making it the group’s longest running educational program. To mark the milestone anniversary, NWF has adopted the goal of planting 75,000 trees across the country. School and youth groups can apply to host a tree planting event with NWF, which will provide native trees adapted to the local climate, as well as tree guards, shovels, mulch, watering supplies and gloves.

Beyond National Wildlife Week, all year long NWF will feature detailed information on their website about different types of wildlife that live in or are dependent upon trees across the country. Young people are encouraged to stay on the lookout for wildlife near them throughout National Wildlife Week and log their sightings accordingly—and can share them online via NWF’s interactive Wildlife Watch Map.

The Branching Out for Wildlife Mega-Poster is comprised of smaller sections that each graphically display the different parts of a tree—roots and soil, forest floor, trunk, branches and leaves/fruit/flowers—and the wildlife that frequent them. At five and a half feet tall, the complete mega-poster is a real attention grabber in any room. Anyone can print out the sections for free as they are all available via the NWF website as PDF downloads.

Wildlife Week is not the only way NWF educates kids and inspires a lifelong love of nature. The group has worked with teachers for decades to get kids learning outdoors. Recently NWF launched a campaign to get 10 million more American children out of their indoor habitats and into the great outdoors over the next three years. And its Eco-Schools USA and Schoolyard Habitats programs harness the power of teachers and students to green thousands of K-12 schools across the country. And the group’s Earth Tomorrow campaign is a multi-cultural youth environmental program that creates opportunities for underserved youth to learn about their world and contribute to the ecological health of their communities.

CONTACT: NWF National Wildlife Week.

A SYNDICATED COLUMN ONLY ON AMERICAJR.COM

 

 

 

 

 

SEND IN YOUR QUESTIONS...

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.

 

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