EPA Flea & Tick Safety Announcement Improves Labels, But Are the Products Safe?

Yesterday, EPA released the results of its assessment of chemical spot-on flea & tick treatments, following the recent sharp increase in reported pet poisonings. As I mentioned in my last post, NRDC was watching closely – as we’ve been working hard to protect pets & families from toxic chemicals in products like this.

After revisiting the safety of these products the agency had previously approved, EPA announced it will increase restrictions on the products and urged consumers to use them with extra care. It will immediately start looking at labels to see which need "stronger and clearer" warnings, and it will "develop more stringent testing and evaluation requirements for both existing and new products."

From 2007 to 2008, there was a 53% increase in pet poisonings from the spot-on products, so it's really good to see EPA taking action to protect our cats and dogs from the hazards of flea-control products. The EPA actions announced yesterday may help prevent poisonings related to misuse of these products and expand the data available to EPA for further evaluations.

Unfortunately, these actions don't address the larger concerns about the safety of the chemical pesticides used in flea-control products for either pets or families. Based on EPA's analysis, not all of the pet poisonings can be explained by people wrongly using the product.

This calls into question the safety of the products themselves. A question which was not answered by EPA in yesterday's announcement. Some of the chemicals included in EPA's assessment, such as permethrin and amitraz, are known to pose serious health risks to people. Other dangerous chemicals, like propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos, are used in flea & tick collars – products still not even covered by EPA's new actions.

EPA's actions are a good start to make flea control products safer but there's a lot more work to be done.

In the meantime, check out our Green Paws website (www.greenpaws.org) for more information on the hazards of flea control products and how to protect your pet and family. There, you’ll find tips, resources & opportunities to take action like these:

  • Text service for your phone – just text "pets" and the name of the product to 69866 to get a text back with toxicity information and alternatives.
  • Consumer-friendly online guide breaks down products by brand and chemicals, and rates their safety – including telling you which ones to avoid at all costs.
  • Easy, chemical-free tips to control fleas
  • Tell PETCO & PetSmart not to wait for EPA, but to be proactive and protect kids & pets from dangerous flea and tick control products.