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- Author or Editor: Heather D. Brake x
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One of the important human health benefits of keeping pets may be to serve as an early warning system for indoor childhood exposure to toxic chemicals such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The stain-resistant properties and environmental stability of PFAS make them a preferred choice for protective coatings and lubricants, and they have been used for years in various manufacturing and industrial processes around the world. Although the use of PFAS has arguably improved many commercial products, they have been linked to adverse health outcomes such as developmental delays, liver damage, immune suppression, disruption of endocrine and reproductive systems, and some cancers. The current body of literature suggests that serum PFAS levels in dogs and cats are analogous to their human counterparts and that household pets experience similar changes in blood chemistry markers. The proximity of small children and household pets to PFAS-treated carpets and floors, in addition to their tendency to put things into their mouths, potentially allows pets to serve as sentinels for household PFAS exposure. To assess the suitability of pets as indicators for exposure, researchers need to understand the most likely sources of PFAS exposure for household pets and identify the biomarkers of biological effects in those animals. Understanding these parameters may alert veterinary clinicians to potential sources of contamination in the home and ultimately protect the lives of the children and animals who live there.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are colorless, odorless, and oil and water repellent. Their widespread use in manufacturing and industrial processes has resulted in environmental contamination found across the world. Exposure to PFAS can lead to a variety of adverse human health outcomes such as increased cholesterol, liver damage, immune suppression, and disruption of endocrine and reproductive systems. Exposure to this family of chemicals is considered a significant public health threat. Though nearly every human and animal around the world has been exposed, most of what is known regarding health effects and toxicological processes of PFAS in animals stems from human epidemiological and laboratory animal studies. Discoveries of PFAS contamination on dairy farms and concerns for companion animals have increased interest in PFAS research related to our veterinary patients. In the limited studies published to date, PFAS has been demonstrated in serum, liver, kidneys, and milk of production animals and has been linked to changes in liver enzymes, cholesterol levels, and thyroid hormones in dogs and cats. This is further addressed in the companion Currents in One Health by Brake et al, AJVR, April 2023. There is a gap in understanding the routes of exposure, absorption of PFAS, and adverse health effects among our veterinary patients. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature on PFAS in animals and discuss the implications for our veterinary patients.