Chemicals in pet feces may indicate human health risks


This marks the first study designed to examine pet exposure to aromatic amines in the household.

A recent study conducted by researchers at New York University Grossman School of Medicine has revealed that dogs and cats may be exposed in their homes to a potentially toxic group of cancer-causing chemicals—aromatic amines—found in tobacco smoke and in dyes used in cosmetics, textiles, and plastics.

According to a university release,1 the chemicals were found in pets’ stool and can be indicative of health issues for the humans living with them.

"Since pets are smaller and more sensitive to toxins, they serve as excellent 'canaries in the coal mine' for assessing chemical risks to human health," expressed study senior author Kurunthachalam Kannan, PhD, a professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU Langone. "If they are getting exposed to toxins in our homes, then we had better take a closer look at our own exposure."

According to the release, the research team collected urine samples from 42 dogs and 21 cats residing in private households, veterinary clinics, and animal shelters in Albany, New York. Plus, they collected fecal samples from 77 more pets living in the same area. After documenting each animal's age, breed, and sex, they analyzed the collected samples for a sign of 30 different kinds of aromatic amines and nicotine.1

The findings revealed that cats had at least triple the concentrations of aromatic amines in their urine as dogs. The study authors attributed this to greater exposure and disparities in metabolism between the 2 species as cats do not break down many compounds as efficiently as dogs.

Additionally, the study displayed little difference in aromatic amine exposure between animals that lived at home compared with those in shelters or veterinary hospitals. In the release,1 Chinthakindi expressed that this demonstrates how common these substances are and how challenging it is to avoid them.

"Our findings suggest that pets are coming into contact with aromatic amines that leach from products in their household environment," said study lead author Sridhar Chinthakindi, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health.

"As these substances have been tied to bladder, colorectal, and other forms of cancer, our results may help explain why so many dogs and cats develop such diseases," he added.

It remains uncertain what aromatic amine levels are safely tolerable by pets. Currently, a limit has not been established by regulatory organizations for pets' protection, according to the release.1

The next goal of the study's authors is to analyze the connection between aromatic amine exposure and bladder, thyroid, and testicular cancer in companion animals.


Chemicals in pet feces may signal threats to human health. News release. NYU Langone Health. March 31, 2022. Accessed March 31, 2022.

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