Study finds air freshener and other possible links to feline hyperthyroidism

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Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common endocrine-related disease of older cats, and it has skyrocketed since the first case was diagnosed in 1979.

Recently, researchers expanded their studies of what might be causing this disease in cats, with an eye towards the effects of flame retardant chemicals.

In the mid-1970s, manufacturers began to put polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) into textiles, polyurethane foam, plastics and electronics. But in 2004, U.S. manufacturers started voluntarily phasing out these flame retardants amidst environmental and health concerns.

Alternatives including organophosphate esters (OPEs), were added instead, but recent research suggests these flame retardants can act as endocrine disruptors. Prior research suggested a link between PBDE levels and feline hyperthyroidism, but OPEs had not been examined in this context until Kim Anderson and colleagues wondered if they could use silicone pet tags to assess hyperthyroid and non-hyperthyroid housecats’ exposure to various flame retardants, including OPEs.

The researchers recruited owners of 78 housecats seven years and older, half with hyperthyroidism and half without, to allow their pets to participate in the study. They gave the cats’ owners silicone tags to put on their pets because silicone picks up volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Wristbands made of the material have been used in previous studies to monitor human exposure to environmental chemicals.

After the cats had worn the tags for seven days, the researchers analyzed the silicone and found higher levels of TDCIPP — an OPE– from those cats with hyperthyroidism. Higher TDCIPP exposures were associated with air freshener use, houses built since 2005, and cats that prefer to nap on upholstered furniture.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Program.

The paper’s abstract will be available on July 10 at 8 a.m. Eastern time here:

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Featured image:

Silicone pet tags, seen here in purple, helped researchers measure housecats’ exposure to flame retardants.

Adapted from Environmental Science & Technology 2019, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b02226

Usage Restrictions: Image may only be used with the appropriate credit.



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