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Intervention in the hormone balance

They have names such as Di-2-butoxyethyl phthalate (DBEP), Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and countless others. They are found in plastics of all kinds and almost everyone has come across them under their common name “plasticisers”. Plasticisers are suspected of influencing the hormone balance or being hormonally active themselves, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), and can also lead to behavioural disorders, infertility and liver damage.

There is no labelling requirements for plastic products for animals

Should we make sure that feed bowls, water buckets and troughs for horses do not contain any harmful plasticisers or phthalates? After all, drinking troughs and feed bowls are made precisely for this purpose.

Firstly, the bad news: in the case of plastic products for animals, the manufacturer is not obliged to state whether the products are food-safe or not. Often you can find information on the manufacturers website or give them a call to find out if their products are food safe, sometime some colours in the same range are food safe whereas other are not, it does require some research to make sure that it is safe for the horse to eat their feed and drink their water from it.

Strong odour = harmful substances

If the odour is strong, it can be assumed that it contains harmful substances.

If there is no indication or logo on the product, you should try and smell it. If it has a strong odour of its own, you can assume that it is not healthy to let the horse eat or drink from it. There is a chance that the horse isn’t happy to eat or drink out of the bucket either, as the horse’s nose is much finer than ours. The cheap gardening tubs from the Hardware store were very popular as drinking troughs for a long time, but word has got around that they are not suitable for this purpose due to the plasticisers.

Horse is drinking from a water trough that is made of plasticisers
Plasticisers are suspected of influencing the hormone balance or being hormonally active themselves.
© Adobe Stock/Milan

Plasticisers make brittle plastic flexible

The next thing you can tell if plasticisers are present is the plastic itself. If it is soft and flexible, it usually contains a plasticiser. If it retains its shape and cannot be bent, there is a good chance that it does not contain any harmful substances. With plastics such as Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethylene (PE), you are on the safe side as they do not contain any plasticisers.

A problem not only in – but also on the horse

However, you should not only pay attention to plasticisers in feeding bowls and drinking buckets. They can also be absorbed through the skin. So everything that comes into contact with the horse should be checked in the same way. Brush manufacturers now also advertise that their brushes or curry combs are free of any plasticisers, as not only the horse that absorbs plasticisers through the skin, but also the person using the curry combs brushing the horse.

Conclusion: avoid when ever possible

Of course, you won’t drop dead just because you hold the curry comb in your hand for five minutes or the horse comes into contact with it, for the same amount of time, just be aware that it contains substances that are harmful to your health, ‘every little helps’. Plasticisers are now found in so many everyday objects and have also been detected in drinking water and soil, it seems unavoidable. That’s why making you aware gives you a better understanding and ensures you’re able to make a more informed decision – ideally using drinking buckets and feeding bowls that do not contain plasticisers.