Does Eco-Friendly Mean Pet Friendly?
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Developing a sustainable lifestyle is a massive step forward for the environment. It can help people save money, feel closer to nature and overall contribute to saving the planet. Green products are a significant boon for those who still need to pack a lunch every day or love convenience but hate waste. However, they may also have a furry, scaly or feathered friend running around the house that might love playing around in the pantry or chewing on containers. So, does eco-friendly mean pet friendly?
The answer may be surprising. While sustainable products are vital, regulations on them still need work before the Earth is indeed a greener place. Read on to discover the nuances and if eco-friendly does mean pet friendly.
The Greenwashing Problem
When walking through the aisles of a grocery or pet store, people might feel relieved when they see labels like “natural,” “green” or “eco-friendly.” Purchasing items with these words helps them feel like they’re contributing to something bigger. However, there’s a significant issue with greenwashing that companies are exploiting to get people to continue buying their products without changing their ways.
For example, a business might reduce how much plastic they use and claim they are eco-friendly, but their items may still contain harmful chemicals and toxins. But because the organization made a sustainable move, it can put it in its advertisements and on its labels, confusing people into thinking they’re buying a natural product. In reality, the contents of whatever they’re buying could still be dangerous for the whole family.
A couple of troubling materials are per- and polyfluroalkyl substances — or PFAS. These chemicals have only been in use since the 1940s, so research on them is limited but forthcoming. One significant problem is PFAS don’t break down, so if they enter the water, air or dirt, they won’t decompose. Currently, scientists have found PFAS in food, the environment and the blood of people and animals. While there are ways to clear them from water, there are no methods for removing PFAS from the body as of now.
So, what do PFAS do? As stated before, scientists must perform many more years of research before coming up with definitive results. However, some side effects of PFAS exposure are:
- Lower vaccine effectiveness in children
- Higher risk of increased blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Changes to liver enzymes
- Raised cholesterol levels
- Smaller birth weights
- Heightened risk of testicular or kidney cancer
What’s the trouble here? Companies claiming to be eco-friendly or non-toxic likely still contain PFAS. A study by Silent Spring Institute chose items with these labels meant for children and tested them for fluorine, which indicates PFAS. Of the 93 products they analyzed, 54 of them did have fluorine. Additionally, items promoted as stain- or water-resistant were found to contain PFAS whether they were labeled “non-toxic” or not. They found these materials most often in clothing, pillow protectors and upholstered furniture.
How Do Animals React to Toxins?
Obviously, pets are much smaller than humans. While this feature makes them very loveable, it also makes it much harder for their bodies to process harmful substances. Their livers do not contain certain enzymes that human ones do to clear out toxins efficiently. This means they can get very sick very quickly off of less exposure.
One of the biggest culprits of accidental pet poisoning is cleaning products. Dogs and cats will walk on the floor the same way their humans do after cleaning the floor, but they will lick their paws or groom themselves. Adults and older kids might know not to drink from a bucket of water containing bleach, but an animal doesn’t know what chemicals are in there — all they see is a drink. If an item poses significant risks for human ingestion, the effects will be more extreme on pets.
Here are the ways different cleaning products can affect a pet’s health:
- Fabric softener sheets: Drooling, fever, vomiting, esophageal and oral ulcers, intestinal blockage
- Alkaline grout sealer: Slight upset stomach or symptoms similar to fabric softener
- Carpet deodorizers: Mild skin irritation, upset stomach, coughing, sneezing, runny nose
- Essential oils: Upset stomach, aspiration pneumonia, central nervous system depression, liver damage
- High concentrations of vinegar or bleach: Pain, oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea
Using air fresheners can be dangerous as well. Sprays, plugins and candles can all contain formaldehyde, naphthalene, ethanol and phthalates, which pose massive dangers. While finding ways to clean the house is still important, an eco-friendly product might not be as pet friendly as one would imagine.
How to Find Eco-Friendly and Pet Friendly Products
Does eco-friendly mean pet friendly? Not necessarily. Unfortunately, many companies know they can draw in more customers by promoting themselves as sustainable even though their items still contain dangerous levels of toxins. It’s not always safe to rely exclusively on the label. So how can green pet parents prioritize their responsibilities to the planet and their pets?
Research, Research, Research
If a product sounds too good to be true, there’s always the potential that it is. Pet parents should look up the claims new items make and see if they’re genuine. Luckily, many other sustainable animal lovers out there are just as eager to find better products and will help investigate.
Try looking up the ingredients if there isn’t any discussion yet and see if they are safe for ingesting in minimal amounts. Some products may still have problematic elements, but they may be okay in small quantities.
Go Plant Based While Cleaning
If avoiding human-made chemicals is the goal, find some plant-based cleaners that will help pets thrive in a spotless home. These items will be all-natural and much safer if a dog, cat or other animal friend accidentally consumes some. Be sure to do thorough research here, too — it’s essential to guarantee honesty when it comes to safety.
Check With Veterinarians
Animal lovers who still have burning questions, consider talking with a vet at the next check-up. Vet techs or someone working in the office might also have some safe recommendations. Checking with a qualified professional can help soothe any fears about potentially toxic products pet owners can’t relieve themselves.
Find Products that Mean Eco-Friendly and Pet Friendly
While sustainable pet parents want to believe their green lifestyle meshes with their animal friends, but that is not always the case. It takes some investigation to find the best and safest items. Spending time finding eco-friendly and pet-friendly products can help families keep everyone safe and happy.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.