Are Plastic Toys Hurting Our Pets?

A new study from Texas Tech University has found that plastic toys, such as bumper toys used for training, may be exposing our dogs to harmful chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA) and phtalates, which could pose a health risk.

Philip Smith, co-author of the study and a toxicologist at The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech, became curious about how these toys may be affecting his own dogs.

“Some of the dogs are exposed to plastic bumpers from the time they are born until the day they die. We all want our pets to be healthy,” Smith told Environmental Health News.

The researchers, led by Kimberly Wooten, studied how much BPA and phtalates leached from orange and white plastic bumper toys into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva and compared both those that were left outside to those that were subjected to simulated chewing.

Since simulated chewing and artificial saliva were used, researchers aren’t sure exactly what the quantity of chemicals leaching into a dogs mouth would be, but, according to Smith, they believe the amount would be high if compared to children’s toys. They also tested other types of pet toys and found that while higher concentrations of BPA and phtalates leached from bumper toys, other toys also leached hormonally-active chemicals.

“Think of the molecules that comprise plastics as bricks in a wall. With pet toys, wear and tear from chewing would place stress on the chemical bonds – the mortar – allowing individual molecules to be released,” said Laura Vandenberg, a reproductive scientist from Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Back in 1998, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that phthalates leaching out of plastic toys children put in their mouths may be higher than the acceptable level of intake and that when adult volunteers mouthed toys, the result was 39.5 times higher than simulated lab tests showed.

However, no one is sure whether these substances pose a health risk to pets since the effects weren’t studied. Most of the research that has been conducted has focused on products that humans use, although BPA and phtalates have been associated with a number of problems in humans and rodents, such as certain types of cancer, defects, early onset puberty in females, reproductive impairment, obesity and behavioral problems.

In 2010, the FDA stated that it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”

The U.S. Canada and the European Union have banned some phthalates in toys for children and the FDA has banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups intended for toddlers in response to a request from the American Chemistry Council.

The researchers involved in this study believe that this area should be further explored and consumers should be educated about the potential risks.

Alternatives for your pets

Fortunately, there are a number of companies that pass on potentially harmful substances and offer BPA and phtalate-free toys for pets, including Planet Dog, Nylabone, West Paw Design, Chewber, Jolly Pets and Kong. Etsy also has a few sellers who make eco-friendly pet products, like Wag Rags, among others.


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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Emily J
Emily J1 years ago

Keep demanding toy companies and stores stock only safe, nontoxic toys made from materials that won't leach harmful chemicals when chewed, present a choking risk or otherwise harm dogs! There are some companies who make nontoxic toys, but it's terrible that most people don't know that dog toys aren't regulated like human toys so they could be buying something dangerous without knowing!

.5 years ago

thank you for sharing

Duane B.
.6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Fiona T.
Past Member 6 years ago

We should check that for our loyal friend

Audrey B.
Audrey B6 years ago

I use to buy any toys for my dog. NO MORE we only buy what is made in the USA. Not just her toys, but her food & treats. Make sure you checkout if it is made in the USA and also packaged in the USA. Sometimes its one or the other, so check those labels.

China makes the same crap for your kids toys, so making TOXIC things does not matter to them. They just don't care.

Thanks to Amy S. in her blog shows is making products in the USA.That we can order online or watch in the stores for this brand. GET the word out people need to know how to keep their pets happy & healthy. I did check this site, there are plenty of products we can buy Toys, Beds, Misc. Products.


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra6 years ago

Thank you Alicia, for Sharing this!

Debi C.
Deborah C6 years ago

This is not surprising. I won't buy my dog plastic toys. All his toys are organic cotton ^_^ Simply Fido makes wonderful dog toys.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

We should all know by now that plastics are negatively affecting every living thing, including mother earth.

Carrie Anne Brown

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

Amy S.
Amy S.6 years ago

I love West Paw Design's products. They're made in America, too!