Poison in Pet Collars Harms Kids’ Brains, Yet Trump’s EPA Does Nothing

Products remain on store shelves and in homes, ten years after legal action began

WASHINGTON – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to court for failing to act to protect young children from a dangerous pesticide used in flea collars and other pet products. The EPA acknowledges exposure to the toxic chemical can harm kids’ developing brains. More than two years ago, the agency told the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals it would take action on this pesticide. Yet, the EPA, under the Trump Administration, has done nothing.

“Pet-loving kids are put at risk by EPA’s failure to ban a toxic chemical found in flea collars that harm kids’ brains,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist with NRDC. “The science is clear: there is enormous evidence of harm from exposure to this chemical. The EPA agrees exposure to this poison can hurt kids, yet the agency has done nothing to restrict its use on pets. NRDC has been in court fighting on behalf of families for more than a decade, and we won’t stop until poison pet products are removed from store shelves.”

The case addresses delays in prohibiting use of the highly toxic pesticide tetrachloyinphos (TCVP), despite a 2016 EPA risk assessment that acknowledges exposure to the chemical puts kids at risk. Pet products made with TCVP are designed to leave chemical residues on pet fur. Children playing with their cat or dog get theses residues on their hands where the chemical can be absorbed through the skin or ingested when they put their hands in their mouths.

NRDC’s effort to remove poison pet products from store shelves spans a decade.

  • In April 2009, NRDC filed an administrative petition to cancel the registration of TCVP pet products because of the risks to kids.
  • Five years later, after hearing nothing from the EPA, NRDC filed a case forcing the EPA to respond. In November 2014 the EPA denied NRDC’s petition.
  • In January 2015, NRDC sued again, challenging EPA’s denial as unlawful. EPA then announced it wanted to redo TCVP’s risk assessment.
  • NRDC opposed an open-ended timeframe, leading EPA to tell the court in 2016 it would respond to NRDC’s petition “within 90 days of finalizing the [TCVP] risk assessment.”
  • On December 21, 2016, EPA issued a final risk assessment for TCVP, finding health risks for young children that exceed acceptable levels. The agency pledged to issue a proposed decision on TCVP’s registration in 2017.
  • 90 days later, in March 2017, the EPA failed to issue a final response to NRDC’s cancellation petition, as it had told the court it would do. In the meantime, TCVP continues to be sold in household pet products, where children are exposed to the pesticide through residues on treated pets. 

In light of EPA’s failure to protect kids, pet-loving families will need to watch out for toxic pet products on the shelves. NRDC’s Green Paws guide can help pet owners choose safer options, and pet stores like PetCo and PetSmart can protect their customers by ensuring the safety of the products they sell.

Additional Resources

No More Poisons on Pets: EPA Must Act” Miriam Rotkin-Ellman (blog)
Nontoxic Ways to Protect Your Pet” (NRDC)


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​


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