Pet products and the environment – a survey for US and Canadian owners

Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts that stem from the use and disposal of the array of products people use to keep themselves healthy, clean and smelling nice. Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, posing a water quality and environmental health risk. Researchers at Oregon State University say that, with an estimated 68 percent of American households owning at least one pet, the scope of the potential problem is large.

Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University, has launched a survey of veterinary professionals and pet owners to to get a better idea of the scope of the issue. If you live in the United States or Canada, you can contribute to his survey here.

The purpose of the survey is to determine how aware people are about the disposal of “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets plus their general awareness of the environmental issues.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, a suite of PPCPs used by pets and people are being detected at low levels in surface water and groundwater. Examples include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, the insect repellent DEET, and ultraviolet (UV) sunblock compounds.

For example, coal tar which is used in pet medicines and shampoos for skin treatment is an endocrine disruptor.

When medicines are no longer needed, the research team encourages owners to take the drugs and medications back to their pharmacy or veterinarian for proper disposal in a drug collection program. Placing unwanted medications in the rubbish means that they are an uncontrolled source in landfills, where leaching and runoff are mechanisms to enter the environment.


3 responses to “Pet products and the environment – a survey for US and Canadian owners

  1. Thank you so much for posting about our study on pet products and the environment. We are extending the national survey until Dec. 15, 2014. So thanks for continuing to ask your readers to participate in the online survey study “Pet Well-Being and the Environment”.

    The early responses are very informative on what environments pet owners value for the pets, how pet meds and care products along with human meds and care products are chosen, used and disposed as well as what owners need to make wise choices about pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Best regards, Sam Chan, Professor, Oregon State Unversity

    • Hi Samuel, you are very welcome for the coverage. I am always interested in promoting research involving dogs and dog care/ownership. I hope your survey proves useful to your research and also that you will consider extending it to other countries in due course.

      • Hi Kathleen, our research is more relevant when its connected with caring pet owners. We are impressed with the depth and sincerity of responses and pet owners willingness to take positive and caring actions. Thanks again for providing coverage on the issue of PPCPs and encouraging participation in the survey .

        We’ll be sure to share the results with you and your readers when the survey is completed. Yes, we hope that our findings can stimulate extension of our research in to other countries.

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