EPA Putting Tighter Leash on Makers of Flea and Tick Products

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined plans, announced last year, to place new restrictions on products designed to prevent flea and tick infestations on cats and dogs.

The agency is taking action because in 2008 it received nearly double the number of reports of adverse reactions and, in some cases, death, in dogs and cats who were treated with the pesticide products, as compared to the number received in 2007. Of the 44,263 reports in 2008, 600 resulted in the death of an animal.

The EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances formed a task force and reviewed many reported incidents, finding that two pesticides, cyphenothrin and permethrin, were linked to reports of adverse reactions to the topical treatments. The EPA’s research also showed that small dogs more commonly showed adverse reactions to the treatments, compared to medium or large dogs. And overall, cats had more adverse reactions that dogs.

Based on its research, the EPA, has made a number of recommendations for pet owners, which basically boil down to suggesting that they read the application instructions and dosage information printed on the products more closely, as some illnesses were linked to improper application of the products.  But makers of flea and tick products will likely need to make some changes, too. The EPA is considering new requirements for how the products are to be labeled and it may require that new, more specific language be used to describe to consumers the proper ways to use the products. And in some cases, makers of the products may even need to change the formulations of the drugs, as there is evidence that some of the “inert” ingredients in the products may actually have toxic effects on animals.

In reaction to the EPA’s study, Merial Ltd., makers of the Frontline tick and flea treatment, released this statement, which ran in an Associated Press article: “The number of adverse events reported for FRONTLINE has remained consistently low since the product’s introduction in 1996,” and most of those, it said, were minor. Advantage, another popular flea and tick treatment, is made by Bayer, through its Animal Health division. Bayer told the New York Times last year that while some of its dog products contain permethrin, none of its cat treatments do. And a Frontline spokesperson said Merial uses another pesticide, called fipronil.

So why are the numbers of incidents up? It might be a result of an increase number of counterfeit flea and tick products have been infiltrating the marketplace in recent years, disguised as Frontline or Advantage products.

Freelance writer Mary Catherine O'Connor finds that a growing number of companies are proving the ways that they can make good financially, socially and environmentally (as the triple bottom line theory suggests).With that in mind, she contributes to Triple Pundit, as well as to Earth2Tech and other pubs focused on sustainability. She also writes The Good Route, an Outside Magazine blog that addresses the intersection of sustainability and the active/outdoor life.To find out more, or to reach her, go to www.mcoconnor.com.