The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a lawsuit this month against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the agency has failed, after years of petitions from the group, to remove two pesticides from pet flea collars – propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) – that are known to cause neurological and other problems in small animals, and are considered possible and probable human carcinogens.
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a scientist with the NRDC’s health and environment program, expressed on her blog that while the EPA has made progress “in that the majority of the most neurotoxic pesticides have been banned, or severely restricted, for use in the home – propoxur and TCVP in flea collars have been overlooked and continue to pose a serious health threat.
“In November of 2007 and April of 2009, we brought this oversight to the attention of the EPA and filed formal petitions seeking a ban on pet uses of the pesticides because of the risks to kids. Unfortunately, all these years later, EPA has still not responded to those petitions and we have to go to court to get action to protect families.”
All pesticides that are sold and distributed in the United States have to be registered and approved by the EPA. The agency has acknowledged the risks of the pesticides, and has sought public comments on the issue, but has yet to take any action in banning them in pet flea collar products.
The EPA classifies propoxur as a carbamate insecticide used to control ants, roaches, and hornets in and around residences and commercial food handling establishments. The formulations include aerosols, baits, dusts and powders, pest strips, shelf paper, ready-to-use solutions, and pet flea collars.
The EPA acknowledges that propoxur poses a “potential carcinogenic risk to pest control operators and the general public during indoor and outdoor applications, and risks to occupants of buildings treated with propoxur products.”
For occupational use, the agency requires that professional applicators use “personal protective clothing, including long-sleeve shirts, long pants, chemical resistant gloves, and shoes plus sox.” The EPA says it “believes that there are no other reasonable measures that could be imposed to further reduce risk.”
Another issue of concern that the agency acknowledges is that propoxur can persist in effectiveness for months when disseminated and can be mobile.
The irony here is that there are protective requirements for professional use, but open unrestricted exposure is allowed for homes via pet flea collars or other forms of dissemination.