April 24, 2009

Group says flea collars for pets endanger kids

The original article can be found on SFGate.com here:

Friday, April 24, 2009 (SF Chronicle)

Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
(04-23) 15:12 PDT OAKLAND

Some cat and dog flea collars leave chemicals on fur that are hazardous to the pets and their owners, in violation of California’s anti-toxics laws, according to a national environmental group’s lawsuit Thursday. The Natural Resources Defense Council urged federal
regulators to remove the products from the market. Two chemicals in the pet collars left residue sufficient to pose the risk of cancer and neurological damage to children — as much as 1,000 times higher than levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the group said.

“Just because a product is sold in stores doesn’t mean it’s safe,” said Dr. Gina Solomon, a physician and a toxicologist with the environmental group and an author of the study. Under California’s Proposition 65, which was approved by state voters in 1986, “consumers have a right to know if a flea-control product could make their pets or families sick,” Solomon said.

The group asked the federal environmental agency to cancel the registration for use of the two chemicals — propoxur and TCVP, or tetrachlorvinphos- on pets. The EPA has deemed exposure to flea collars insignificant.

Still, the agency considers the chemicals to be carcinogens and neurotoxins. Propoxur is on the state’s list of carcinogens regulated by Prop. 65, and the state is considering adding TCVP to the list.

The federal agency did not immediately respond to the environmental group’s petitions and allegations that regulators failed to safeguard the public and their pets from dangerous pesticides. In its lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, the group alleges that 16 retailers and manufacturers, including chain pet supply and grocery stores, failed to warn consumers that they were exposed to unsafe levels of propoxur in violation of state law. Officials at Central Life Sciences in Schaumburg, Ill., which has taken over two of the defendants named in the suit — manufacturers Wellmark International Corp. and Farnam Co.s — had not seen the study and could not comment, said Mark Newberg, director of corporate affairs. Other manufacturers named in the suit — Hartz Mountain Group, Sergeant’s Pet Care Products Inc. and Virbac Inc. — could not be reached for comment.

The environmental group conducted tests on nine dogs and five cats, a sample that was equal to or larger than studies used by the EPA to determine exposure to pesticides from flea collars, the authors said. The tests for TCVP were conducted on Hartz Advanced Care 3-in-1 Control Collar for Cats and Hartz Advanced Care 2-in-1 Reflecting Flea & Tick Collar for Dogs. Tests for propoxur were done on Zodiac Flea & Tick Collar for dogs and Bio Spot Flea and Tick Collar for dogs. Pet owners calling the National Pesticide Information Center have complained that dogs and cats wearing collars containing the ingredients had stopped eating or drinking and showed symptoms including vomiting, twitching and diarrhea. There was no confirmation that the collars caused the problems. The environmental group’s researchers followed common protocols, including wiping fur to simulate petting. Measured residues were compared to the EPA’s acceptable levels using standard exposure and risk assessments for cancer and other ill health effects. For TCVP, after three days, 60 percent of the dogs and 40 percent of the cats had residue levels that would exceed the EPA’s acceptable level for developing brains of toddlers who spend an average amount of time with a pet. For toddlers who have a lot more pet contact or have more than one pet, residue levels on 80 percent of the dogs and all of the cats would exceed the acceptable level. After two weeks, none of the pets had residue levels that exceeded the acceptable level for average contact with a pet, but 67 percent of the dogs and all of the cats had residue levels that could be dangerous for children who have a lot of contact with a pet. For propoxur, after three days, all of the dogs had residue levels that would exceed the EPA’s acceptable level for developing brains of toddlers spending an average amount of time with a pet.

After 14 days, 75 percent of the dogs had residue levels exceeding the acceptable level for average contact with a pet, while all of the dogs had residue levels that could be dangerous for children having a lot of contact with a pet.

In 2000, the environmental group identified seven organophosphate insecticides as dangerous ingredients in flea-and-tick-control products. The EPA has since canceled residential uses for six of them, including in pet products, leaving only TCVP. Toxics and pets.

Read the Poisons on Pets II study at links.sfgate.com/ZGWC.

See the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Green Paws product guide at links.sfgate.com/ZGWA.

E-mail Jane Kay at jkay@sfchronicle.com.
Copyright 2009 SF Chronicle