Dogs and cats can be the canaries in your personal mineshaft – your home – because they are so small and more easily affected by toxic substances in the environment. Modern homes are filled with toxic products, from the materials used to build our homes, to paints and fabrics for decorating, to furniture, to our cleaning products, pesticides and lawn care products.
Last year Teddi developed a half dozen small tumors on her chest. Three vets and lots of tests told me that the tumors were probably the result of too much estrogen in her nine-year-old body, and I was admonished for not have spayed her earlier in life. Surgery cost $700 for the hysterectomy and tumor removal, but the vet said that the tumors did not turn out to be mammary tumors caused by estrogen as they’d suspected, which surprised him. The good news was that they were benign.
Ever since then I have worried that the floors in our home might have contributed to the tumors – they’re fake-wood laminate floors that are made with pressed wood and formaldehyde-containing adhesives. Such floors are reported to continue off-gassing formaldehyde into the home for ten years or so. Many other home materials have formaldehyde in them too, as described above.
I also worried that the deck we have might be the problem – it was built with arsenic-treated wood before such wood was removed from the residential market because of potential hazards to children. When I bought the house two years ago, I had the deck sealed with a stain recommended to reduce arsenic leaching by about 90 percent, but the paint is peeling and some wood is now exposed.
I’m not sure whether either of these is the culprit, but I know that I don’t want to poison my dog or cats, and I would hate it if she develops more tumors and becomes ill. Replacing the deck and replacing the floors are both expensive propositions, but I plan to seal the decks again as a temporary measure, and remove the fake wood floors. To reduce the cost of replacing them with wood, tile or carpet (which can also be toxic), I’m going to try a new technique of staining the concrete – results I’ve seen can be quite beautiful. These colors are from Soy-Crete, a non-toxic stain:
You can learn more about environmental health of your pets (and the rest of us) from the Environmental Working Group, which provides research on such issues. Here’s a little story that helps illustrate the problem: Eddie’s Story | Environmental Working Group.