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Daily News Blog

20
Jul

Despite Nearly 1,700 Pet Deaths from Seresto Pet Collars, Pesticide Product Remains on Market

(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2023) Despite evidence of toxicity to pets from Seresto pet collars (manufactured with the neurotoxic insecticide flumethrin, as well as the notorious neonicotinoid imidacloprid), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) has announced that the popular flea and tick collars will remain on the market, but with new mitigation measures. However, advocates say that these measures will do little to protect people and pets from chemical exposure using these collars. The agency will require Elanco — the manufacturer of Seresto — to conduct enhanced reporting for various factors, including adverse symptoms, veterinary community outreach, and warnings on the product’s label. Seresto, developed by Bayer and sold by Elanco, has been linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths, injuries to tens of thousands of animals, and harm to hundreds of people. There are nontoxic ways to protect pets from fleas and other pests while protecting human family members.

Children Ignored by the Agency
EPA has a history of ignoring the exposure patterns to children who come into close contact with pets and their flea collars and the potential adverse health threats, opting for warnings instead of regulatory action. In 2017, EPA issued a warning for tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) flea collars that advised: “not allowing children to play with [the] pet collars; keeping  [the] spray and power products out of reach of children; and, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling.” Advocates point to the unrealistic nature of the precautions being advised, given that children come into contact with collars and other toxins sprayed on pets when they play and sleep with their pets and through hands (exposure) to mouth contact (ingestion). With TCVP pet collars (not pump/trigger liquid sprays), EPA announced a Notice of Intent to Cancel in October 2022 pending additional manufacturer data. In the case of Seresto collars and the synthetic pyrethoid ingredient, EPA is ignoring a plethora of studies in the independent scientific literature on adverse effects to children, including a 2022 study on prenatal and infant daily exposure effects.

EPA Opts for Warnings and More Information and Monitoring, Not Regulatory Action
EPA’s multi-year scientific review of Seresto-related incidents analyzes all reports of death and injury associated with these collars from 2016 to 2020. Although EPA highlights two percent of Seresto-related incidents resulted in death, death-related incidents are missing critical details that prevent EPA from determining the cause. Sublethal exposure to chemicals in these pet collars can cause severe adverse effects—from pruritus (itchy skin) and dermal lesions and changes in fur to lethargy, anorexia, and neurological symptoms. Since the removal of the collar can alleviate moderate to severe clinical signs of adverse health incidence, and reapplication of the collar results in a reoccurrence of clinal symptoms, EPA will require the registrant of Seresto to implement the following measures:

 “To alert veterinarians and consumers of potential risks, the terms of continued registration require Elanco to include label warnings on Seresto products that describe common adverse effects that have been reported, along with instructions to remove the collar if those effects occur and instructions on how to report the incident. Elanco also must develop an outreach program to more effectively communicate with veterinarians and the public on the risks of using the product and other similar pesticides on pets.

  • To improve the quality of data reported when receiving reported incidents from consumers, Elanco must pursue additional information to the greatest extent possible to ensure that complete details of each event are captured. This information includes whether the pet had any pre-existing conditions or previous history of the reported condition. The Seresto pet collar registration has also been split into two registrations, one for cats and one for dogs, to make comparison of incident data across products easier in the future. Elanco must report incident and sales data to EPA on an annual basis.
  • To reduce the risk of strangulation, Elanco must evaluate potential changes to the emergency release mechanism of Seresto pet collars to prevent death by strangulation or choking. The company must submit a report detailing the data and analysis collected and performed in pursuit of this effort within one year. Based on this evaluation, EPA may require a modified release mechanism for the Seresto collar.
  • To allow for the continued evaluation of reported incidents, EPA has limited its current approval of Seresto collar registrations to five years. EPA will continue to evaluate Seresto incident data over that period.”

Background
Seresto collars are plastic pet collars embedded with pesticides designed to kill fleas, ticks, and lice; they contain the active ingredients flumethrin and imidacloprid. Flumethrin, a chemical in the pyrethroid class of synthetic neurotoxic insecticides, has been linked repeatedly to neurological issues, such as seizures and learning disabilities in children, to gastrointestinal distress, and to damage to invertebrates, according to EPA’s own analysis. However, this is not the first-time tick and flea pet products have garnered negative attention regarding pet health, as numerous flea and tick prevention products (e.g., collars, topical treatments, sprays, and dust) include pesticides such as (TCVP (mentioned above), propoxur, synthetic pyrethroids, and fipronil are toxic, not just to pets and non-target organisms, but to humans, as well.

Moreover, the agency fails to evaluate the synergistic effects of pesticides as these pest collars can contain more than one active ingredient that can work in tandem with another to exacerbate the adverse health symptoms. For instance, USA Today reports, “A 2012 Bayer study found [flumethrin and imidacloprid] have a ‘synergistic effect,’ meaning they are more toxic together on fleas….” However, a 2016 EPA bulletin concluded, “The risk of the combination of the two active ingredients, flumethrin, and imidacloprid, was not assessed because the two chemicals act in completely different ways.” Therefore, the EPA does not adequately evaluate the risks and harms of exposure to multiple pesticide compounds and “inert” or “other” pesticide ingredients.

EPA’s review of these Seresto-related incidents highlights the agency’s failure to thoroughly evaluate these products for animal safety with ongoing monitoring. In fact, in 2021, internal emails at EPA show that career scientists at the agency expressed concern about pesticide-laced pet collars, such as the notorious Seresto flea and tick collars, but that EPA managers “instructed them to avoid documenting those worries in publicly accessible records.” Additionally, the 2021 internal email revelations are further and unfortunate evidence of the state of EPA’s function in carrying out its fundamental mission “to protect human health and the environment.” However, for EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, this means protection from the broadly damaging impacts of synthetic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides has chronicled EPA’s “capture” by industry influence and the corruption that has marked both agrichemical industry behavior and, occasionally, internal EPA actions, as well as specific instances of EPA failures, such as those (like the pesticide pet collars) that put children at risk, and those that continue to allow the devastation of critical species (such as pollinators), ecosystems, and fragile habitats.

Furthermore, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) notes that EPA has received more than 75,000 complaints about these pet collars, associating their use with problems ranging from skin irritation to death. Gizmodo puts the current count of complaints to the EPA about Seresto, since 2012, at more than 86,000 — with 2,340 of those relating to pet deaths. CBD’s environmental health director, Lori Ann Burd, commented that — given EPA’s estimate of the ratio of pesticide incidents “in the real world” to complaints filed with EPA as roughly 5:1 — a sensible extrapolation is that many more pets wearing Seresto collars have been hurt or have died than are represented by reports filed with the agency. Karen McCormack, a retired EPA scientist and communications officer, notes that these collars have generated the greatest number of incident reports of any pesticide product in her long experience. She says, “EPA appears to be turning a blind eye to this problem, and after seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation. But I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Until EPA acts to protect pets by canceling the registration for Seresto flea and tick collars, dog and cat families can take steps to ensure their beloved pets are not negatively affected by these products (insecticide dust, sprays, or shampoos). Certainly, veterinarians may be able to suggest alternatives. In addition, check out Beyond Pesticides’ page on Keeping Our Companions Safe, its guide to least-toxic controls for fleas, and its comprehensive guide to keeping pets safe. NRDC also offers guidance on its website: Non-toxic Ways to Protect Your Pet.

Safely kill flea and tick larvae with non-toxic solutions: vacuum daily during flea season (changing bag often); groom pet daily with a flea comb (cleaning comb with soap-water between brushes); frequently bathe pets with soap and water; and frequently wash pet bedding, restricting pet to only one bed. Learn more about how to protect your pet from pesticides and the least-toxic controls for flea and tick infestation. 

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: EPA, USA TODAY; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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One Response to “Despite Nearly 1,700 Pet Deaths from Seresto Pet Collars, Pesticide Product Remains on Market”

  1. 1
    Mary Conner Says:

    I put one of these on my labrador this past Wed. By Saturday morning she had diarreha and was vomiting. I wish I had seen this article before purchasing a collar and putting her through that agony. She recovered quickly and is fine now, but I feel strongly that the Seresto Colllar should be removed from the market and NO vet should sell them.

    Sincerely,
    Mary

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