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Dr. David
Dr. David, Board Certified Physician
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Can long-term exposure to cat urine fumes be dangerous to your

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Can long-term exposure to cat urine fumes be dangerous to your health?

My son lives in an old apartment in nyc. He has 3 cats living in a small space (upwards to 2 years now). The smell of urine was unbearable to me when I visited him recently. He seems used to it. However, he has been sick with a nagging upper respiratory infection for about a month now and is coughing so much in the last couple days that he can't work. He complains of excessive phlegm, increasing over the last month, in his words "is loose, but seems to have settled in now."

How credible is the information on ehow? I read that exposure to high concentrations over time of animal urine in places that have poor ventilation, can be carcinogenic? Thank you for sharing your knowledge and advice for my son.

Warm regards,

Sherri
Hello, this is Dr. David. I have read your question and am ready to help.

Ammonia is what is bothering him in the cat's urine. Ammonia is a primary eye and upper respiratory tract irritant. OSHA found that a 5-minute ceiling limit for ammonia of 50 ppm is even too much. even 5-minute exposures to 32 ppm caused nasal dryness in 10 percent of exposed volunteers, and that 5-minute exposures to 50 ppm ammonia caused nasal irritation and dryness in 20 percent of exposed volunteers.

Ammonia has not been classified as a carcinogen, however, if something is a chronic exposure and causes enough irritation for long enough periods of time, it can increase the risks for cancer if mixed with other carcinogens like smoking, or polution exposure, etc.

have him read these about ammonia

http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1194947398510

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=7&tid=2

is he willing to have you pay for a cat litter cleaning service which can come to his house 1-2 times a week and change the cat litter?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for the information Dr David --I will forward to my son.


 


I have a couple other important questions:


 


Is there a way he can he test the ammonia exposure in his apartment? and can cat urine produce up to 50 ppm in a small, poorly ventilated area?


 


 

yes, it can be very possible for multiple cats to produce 50ppm in a small poorly ventilated area, especially if he is not cleaning his litter box frequently.

testing for ammonia concentration will be expensive and most likely will show high concentrations. best to just pay for a litter cleaning service.

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