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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

NRDC Files Lawsuit Over Toxic Pesticide Used In Pet Flea Control Products


When we put flea control products on our pets, we want to kill the fleas on our four-legged friends -- not expose ourselves to toxic pesticides. That’s why the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit this week against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision to allow the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) to be used in pet flea control products. The lawsuit petitions the court to “review and set aside the final order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denying NRDC’s request to cancel all pet uses of the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos.”

NRDC has long been concerned about the pesticide. The organization conducted a study in 2007/2008 that found the levels of TCVP residues on the fur of pets wearing flea collars to be unsafe for toddlers. In 2009, NRDC filed a formal petition with the EPA asking the federal agency to not allow TCVP to be used in pet products. NRDC didn’t receive any information about the status of its petition. In February 2014, the organization filed a lawsuit that requested a mandate that the EPA respond to its petition. In May 2014, the EPA promised to respond by the end of October, and in November the federal agency published a safety assessment that, according to the NRDC, “ignores the science and fails to account for the increased vulnerability of kids.”

“Over five years have passed since we first urged EPA to get these toxic chemical collars off the market for good, but the agency continues to fall back on faulty assessments that don’t reflect the true vulnerability of children,” said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist for NRDC, in a statement. “Science shows, time and again, that brain- and nervous system-damaging chemicals like TCVP are too harmful to have in our homes, on our pets and around our children."

An NRDC study, published in 2009, found that high levels of pesticide residue stay on a cat’s or dog’s fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on the pet. And residue levels found on some pets' fur posed neurological risks that are 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels. Children are more vulnerable to toxic pesticides as their metabolic systems are developing. Children also might put their hands in their mouths after touching a cat or dog, so are more likely than adults to ingest pesticide residues.

However, both children and adults are at risk from TCVP residue, according to NRDC. The 2009 study found that residues of TCVP were “high enough to pose a risk to both children and adults who play with their pets.”

Image credit: Christina Welsh

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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