Researchers find high estrogen-mimicking chemical concentrations in dog training batons

Dec 11, 2012 by John Davis

(Phys.org)—Sometimes orange, sometimes white, dog trainers often use plastic fetching batons called bumpers to teach dogs how to retrieve. But researchers at Texas Tech University have discovered that the dogs also may fetch a mouthful of potentially dangerous chemicals at the same time.

Researchers also found these chemicals, though at significantly lower concentrations, in a multitude of plastic chew purchased from a pet store.

The research was conducted by Kimberly Wooten, a master's student using the project as her thesis, and Phil Smith, an associate professor of terrestrial at The Institute of Environmental and at Texas Tech. Though unpublished, Wooten presented the results at the Society of conference held in California.

"I raise and train Labrador retrievers and hunt with them as well," Smith said, explaining what inspired him and Wooten to conduct the experiments. "In the process of training a lab, you do a lot of work with these plastic bumpers. I have a lot of bumpers in my garage, and they spend a lot of time in the mouths of my retrievers. Well, lots of attention has been given to chemicals in plastics lately regarding their effects on humans. Since we all care about our dogs, and we want them to be as healthy and smart and well-behaved as possible, we decided to look into this."

Wooten and Smith said they predicted the possibility that the bumpers could leach phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which are used to give to plastic and vinyl and are known endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen or act as anti-androgens and could lead to . However, both said the findings have created more questions than answers because hardly any data exists on long-term effects of these chemicals on man's best friend.

"The whole end goal was to answer the questions, 'What does this mean for my pet? Is this a concern for our health?'" Wooten said. "We don't have a good answer yet because there's no good data to compare to our findings."

To test for the chemicals, Wooten and Smith created simulated dog saliva, then simulated chewing by squeezing the bumpers and dog toys with stainless steel salad tongs.

Some bumpers and toys were weathered outside as well to see if older toys gave off more chemicals, Smith said.

"We found that the aging or weathering the toys increased concentrations of BPA and phthalates," Smith said. "The toys had lower concentrations of phthalates than the bumpers, so that's good news. But they also had some other chemicals that mimicked estrogen. We need to find out what those are."

Wooten said BPA and phthalates can have effects on developing fetuses and can have a lifelong effect on offspring on lab animals. Some studies on humans conclude that BPA poses no health risks while others cite a number of adverse effects. Because of this, the U.S. government banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2012.

Wooten said questions still remain also as to how much of a dose a dog may get from playing with the bumpers, since it was difficult to say how much of these chemicals may actually leach out into a dog's mouth.

"The interaction of pet health and environmental chemicals is understudied," Wooten said. "What may be a safe dose for one species isn't always a good measure for another species. But the amount of and phthalates we found from the bumpers would be considered on the high end of what you might find in children's toys."

Explore further: Science to the rescue of art

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Chemical biologists find new halogenation enzyme

6 hours ago

Molecules containing carbon-halogen bonds are produced naturally across all kingdoms of life and constitute a large family of natural products with a broad range of biological activities. The presence of halogen substituents ...

Protein secrets of Ebola virus

11 hours ago

The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed more than 2000 lives, has highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of the molecular biology of the virus that could be critical in ...

Protein courtship revealed through chemist's lens

11 hours ago

Staying clear of diseases requires that the proteins in our cells cooperate with one another. But, it has been a well-guarded secret how tens of thousands of different proteins find the correct dancing partners ...

Decoding 'sweet codes' that determine protein fates

14 hours ago

We often experience difficulties in identifying the accurate shape of dynamic and fluctuating objects. This is especially the case in the nanoscale world of biomolecules. The research group lead by Professor Koichi Kato of ...

Science to the rescue of art

Sep 14, 2014

Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" are losing their yellow cheer and the unsettling apricot horizon in Edvard Munch's "The Scream" is turning a dull ivory.

User comments : 0