Monomers are small chemical units that make up the conglomerate we call plastic. Sometimes extra monomers are added to plastic that create unique functional characteristics.
Plasticizers are monomers which impart flexibility by interspersing around the polymer chains, preventing the creation of a tight bond. Without them, plastic is rigid and difficult to shape or mold. Because plasticizers are basically lone agents and not tightly bonded to the structure, they can spin off the chain easily. With the addition of heat or friction (sometimes called “use”) these small units end up in the plastic’s immediate environment. This could be the ocean, your micro-waved lunch, or the water you drink. (this is, of course, a shortened list of possible transfer sites in our everyday lives!)
Two major families of plasticizers are the adipates and
phthalates. Adipates and phthalates do much of their damage through a process called
“endocrine/ hormone disruption”. By mimicking or blocking natural hormones they
disrupt the body’s normal functioning.
Because endocrine disruptors affect development of the body’s vital
organ and hormone systems, infants, children, fetuses, kittens, and puppies are
more vulnerable to exposure than fully formed adults. Some experts have
implicated these hormone disruptions in our increased incidents of cancer,
especially breast cancer.
Why is this important for pet parents? Unfortunately a plastic toy squeaks almost always because it contains lots of plasticizers-- otherwise it would be rigid and non squeakable. This is compounded by a puppy’s toothy warm mouth which provides warmth and friction. Here is one scenario on what can happen when a chew-happy puppy or cat plays with one of their colorful soft squeaky plastic pet toys. (Also, for goodness sakes don’t wash your pets’ plastic toys in a hot soapy washing machine. Remember: friction, heat, UV light, and age are what sets free the little monomer units.)
Basically if it is flexible and made of plastic it is full of hormone disruptive plasticizers. This is simply a fact. Hormone disruption and health do not go together. More on Hormone disruption in our next entry.
For additional and more specific info on plastics and your pets see (http://www.purrfectplay.com/newsletter-06-11.php) The links at the end are useful and... depressing.