This is a pet subject of mine. You can’t see it, feel it or smell it but it is dangerous and it affects us and our cat companions. I have written about this before. However, a recent article on the phys.org website compels me to address this issue again today. The author says that it is estimated that 1 in 10 cats in the USA are afflicted with hyperthyroidism. In 1980 it was 1 in 200. That should alarm cat owners.
The article goes on to say that this may be caused by a flame retardant in furniture called TDCIPP1. There are other flame retardants but in a research study it was found that this chemical appears to be the main culprit. It’s a chemical commonly applied to foam in upholstered furniture, some plastics and some gel air fresheners in the US.
The research found that even in healthy cats elevated levels of TDCIPP correlated with thyroid hormone levels.
“The amount of the chemical in use in the U.S. continues to rise. In 1997, demand for TDCIPP was 450 tons and in 2006 it was 22,700 tons.” – Carolyn Poutasse, a doctoral student in Anderson’s lab and the lead researcher of the study I am referring to.
The basic problem
There’s no point getting too technical about this because people won’t read it. Let’s just say that TDCIPP is a high-production volume organophosphate flame retardant widely used in the United States. Let’s also say that there are clear signs that it can cause hyperthyroidism in domestic cats. Cats in the same household with the same furniture may have different levels of TDCIPP in their bodies because one cat might prefer to spend more time on furniture while the other spends more time on window sills and other areas where he/she is not exposed to flame retardant to the same level.
The problem I have with this subject is that it is very difficult to research it on the Internet. For instance, I wanted to find out how furniture buying consumers and cat guardians can check whether their furniture contains TDCIPP. I think cat owners in America should know whether their furniture contains it or not. I cannot find a clear answer to that question. You would have thought that there will be a label on the furniture which explained whether it contained flame retardant or not and whether the flame retardant used was TDCIPP. However, I don’t think that that simple precaution is in place. Please correct me.
In fact, the whole subject of flame retardant in furniture is clouded in mystery. There are different types of flame retardant and in some places such as in California there are regulations against using them. Some have been phased out while others such as TDCIPP is still, as I understand it, in extensive use.
It’s quite clear to me that all cat owners in America should check for this chemical in their furniture and take steps to remove it. That simple statement is hard to carry out for various reasons but you may be able to change the foam in your furniture if you have ascertained that there is this chemical in it. When buying new furniture I would certainly ask questions. I would ask the salesperson whether the furniture contained TDCIPP. If they don’t know the answer I would persist in asking the question until you obtain a satisfactory answer. Let’s remind ourselves that it affects cats and also humans.
For the sake of clarity, hyperthyroidism (thyroid cancer) tends to occur in older cat and is the increased production of the thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. It causes an increase in appetite and an increase in activity. Other symptoms are weight loss, vomiting and panting. The heart and kidneys may become damaged. It’s obviously a serious illness and, according to the research, a highly prevalent disease. It should not be taken lightly and the best way to deal with it is to prevent it. One aspect of that preventative process is to check for flame retardants and particularly the organophosphate, TDCIPP in your soft furnishings.
Note 1: Tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl) phosphate