WASHINGTON (March 14, 2014) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and major pet product companies announced an agreement today to cancel the use of a toxic chemical called propoxur in flea collars due to the risk posed to the brain and nervous system of kids. The cancellation was spurred by a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 2009 petition filed against the EPA for allowing the use of this toxic chemical despite the fact that propoxur is a known neurotoxin and carcinogen.
The cancellation agreement allows Sergeant's Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International to produce pet collars using propoxur until April 1, 2015 and continue to distribute them until April 1, 2016. Most flea collars can sit on store shelves for up five years before they expire.
According to NRDC, the cancellation is the most significant step to date that EPA has taken to remove toxic chemicals from flea collars and pet products. However, EPA’s approval of an extended phase-out period means that children could still be at risk of this product while EPA allows it to remain on the shelves. Additionally, a related chemical used in flea collars, tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), is not addressed in this agreement and EPA delays in addressing this chemical’s health risks continue to put pet-loving kids at risk.
EPA first determined that flea collars that use propoxur present unsafe exposure levels in 2010 and then confirmed that these products were not safe almost six months ago in an assessment dated September 12, 2013.
Following is a statement from Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“It’s good to see EPA and pet companies start to address the health threat from toxic chemicals in flea collars, but our kids still need better and more complete protection. EPA found a risk to kids and that deserves immediate action, not a slow retreat. Families shouldn’t have to wait years for dangerous products to leave the store shelves. We need strong action that removes these dangerous products from the marketplace and doesn’t leave families at risk.
“EPA has already delayed too long and should be fast-tracking efforts to prohibit the continued production of these dangerous collars. In the meantime, pet stores, like PETCO and PETSMART can protect their consumers by committing to remove these products from their shelves now.”
In February 2014, NRDC filed a lawsuit in federal court against the EPA seeking the agency to respond to NRDC’s petitions to cancel all manufacturer registrations and uses of neurotoxic pesticides propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) used in popular pet flea treatment products. Due to concerns that the products can harm children’s more vulnerable developing brains and nervous systems, the agency severely restricted household use of other known neurotoxic pesticides. Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International were among flea collars brands that NRDC called out for use of these hazardous chemicals.
In response to the NRDC petitions to cancel such uses in pet flea collars, EPA completed a propoxur pet collar risk assessment in fall 2013, following the agency’s initial finding that flea collars with propoxur present unsafe exposure levels back in 2010. EPA’s own risk assessment revealed unacceptable risks to children from exposure to propoxur pet collars, spurring today’s cancellation agreement, which does not ensure a full ban, nor address related use of other dangerous chemicals, such as TCVP.
Prior to last month’s lawsuit filing, EPA failed to respond to NRDC petitions seeking a ban on these two chemicals. NRDC first petitioned EPA to cancel propoxur uses in pet collars in 2007. In 2009, NRDC released its Poison on Pets II report, which found that high levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog’s or cat's fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal. Residue levels detected in this study were found to be high enough to pose a risk to the neurological system of children at levels that greatly exceed EPA's acceptable levels. In conjunction with the report, NRDC filed a supplement to its petition.
For TCVP, NRDC filed a petition in April 2009 to cancel all pet collar uses of TCVP. To date, EPA has not responded to that petition either.
For more information on the NRDC lawsuit’s forcing EPA to take action and safer methods of pet flea control, see these related links:
NRDC Sues EPA to Ban Two Toxic Pesticides in Pet Flea Collars, February 2014 - http://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/140206.asp
For more about the latest on toxic pet collar pesticide science, see NRDC health scientist Miriam Rotkin-Ellman’s blog post here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mrotkinellman/no_more_poisonous_pets_epas_de.html
For more about this lawsuit, see health attorney Mae Wu’s blog post here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mwu/our_dogs_cats_and_kids_deserve.html
Learn more about safer methods of pet flea control at NRDC’s Green Paws product guide: www.simplesteps.org/greenpaws-products.