November 12, 2010

In The Spotlight: The Canary Database

Canary Database - Searchable evidence for animals as sentinels of human health hazards

The Canary Database ( tracks scientific studies about animals as sentinels of human health hazards. Just as coal miners used canaries as a sentinel to detect toxic gases in mines, the health of wildlife and domestic animals can be an early warning of infectious, chemical, or physical threats in the environment.

You can Use the Canary Database to Find Evidence That:
  • Dogs, cats, and other animals may show signs of lead poisoning before humans living nearby.
  • Dogs may be more likely than humans to develop Lyme disease in a tick-infested area.
  • Fish in polluted waters show hormone changes related to chemicals in the water.
  • Whales develop cancer due to chemicals that are also found in humans.
  • In an anthrax bioterrorism attack, animals may show signs before humans.

Linking Animal, Human and Environmental Health
Human and animal health professionals from the Yale Human Animal Medicine Project ( and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center search for and curate scientific studies looking for evidence about:
  • Did the hazardous exposure make the animal sick?
  • Are humans as well as animals exposed to the hazard?
  • Are some species more sensitive than others to the hazard?
  • Were people affected as well as animals by the hazard?
  • Do the animals share gene sequences with humans? If so, their response to a hazard may also be seen in humans.

Evidence-Based Reviews
The Canary Database has produced a number of evidence-based review articles about animals as sentinels, including:
  • Animals as sentinels of human environmental health hazards
  • Animals as sentinels of bioterrorism agents
  • Animals as sentinels of chemical terrorism agents
  • From “us vs. them” to “Shared risk”: can animals help link environmental factors to human health?

So if you’re interested in how animals can warn humans about chemical, infectious, and physical environmental hazards, make the Canary Database one of your online stops.

Source: Canary Database