(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that it has reached agreement with two major pet product companies to cancel flea and tick pet collars containing the insecticide propoxur. The agreement, with a long phase-out period, was reached between the agency and the two companies as a result of EPA’s risk assessment in fall 2013, which found unacceptable risks to children from exposure to pet collars containing propoxur.
The agency found that children were exposed to propoxur pet collars on the first day following application. Flea and tick collars work by leaving a pesticide residue on dogs’ and cats’ fur, which can be transferred to people by hugging, petting, or coming into contact with the pets. The major source of exposure to these chemicals is from absorption through the skin after directly touching the treated pet. Small children may ingest pesticide residues when they touch a treated cat or dog and subsequently put their hands in their mouth.
Under the cancellation agreement, Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc. and Wellmark International will have until April 1, 2015 to continue producing the pet products containing propoxur under the trade names Bansect, Sentry, Zodiac and Biospot, and can continue to distribute them until April 1, 2016. EPA states that it will continue to watch for incidents from the use of these collars and is prepared to take further action if necessary.
Though this is a remarkable step towards removing a harmful product from the market, the extended phase-out period continues to allow children to be exposed. In fact, EPA has an astounding history of negotiated multi-year phase-outs with industry. As seen in other EPA decisions, cancellation of a toxic pesticide does not mean that the chemical would be removed from the market, but it is allowed to linger on the market for years continuing to threaten human health and contaminate the environment.
Propoxur is a carbamate insecticide first registered in the U.S. in 1963 for the control of household pests. Despite the fact that it was banned in 2007 for indoor uses to which children would be exposed, it remained widely used in flea and tick collars. EPA completed the propoxur pet collar risk assessment in fall 2013 in response to a 2009 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petition to cancel the uses.
A 2011 study published in the journal NeuroToxicology found a positive link between exposure to the pesticide propoxur and poor motor development in infants. At the age of two, children exposed to propoxur in the womb experience poor development of motor skills, according to a test of mental development. Propoxur can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Common symptoms of poisoning include malaise, muscle weakness, dizziness, and sweating. Headache, nausea, and diarrhea may also result. EPA considers propoxur a possible human carcinogen, while the state of California classifies it as a known human carcinogen. Propoxur is also highly toxic to beneficial insects such as honey bees as well as crustaceans, fish, and aquatic insects.
Source: EPA Press Release
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