A brain-damaging chemical lurks in popular flea collar products.
By LEAH ZERBE
In a blow to pets and the families that love them, the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to allow pet product companies to use a hazardous neurotoxin called tetrachlovinphos (TCVP) in flea-control products. TCVP residues have been found to lurk on pets' fur in unsafe levels, putting people who live with them at risk.
Despite concerning pesticide residue findings, EPA today denied Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) 2009 petition seeking to cancel all pet uses of the toxic chemical TCVP because of the risks to kids. "Brain and nervous system-harming chemicals, like TCVP, are too dangerous to have in our homes, on our pets, and around our kids," says Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, senior scientist with (NRDC). "Allowing them to stay on the market based on shoddy assessments is irresponsible. Families shouldn't have to worry about the products available at their local pet store. EPA's failure to protect kids is unacceptable."
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Residue levels detected in a previous study were found to be high enough to pose serious risks to the neurological system of children at levels that greatly exceed EPA's acceptable levels. Although largely banned in other household items due to cancer and brain development risks, TCVP and similar chemicals can sneak into the home via toxic flea collars. NRDC says kids are particularly at risk because their bodies are more vulnerable and their activities, like putting their hands in their mouths after petting animals or playing, increase the amount pesticides that get in their bodies.
Avoiding the Worst Flea Products
• Rotkin-Ellman says if you do need to use a chemical flea-control product, the safest options are generally those dispensed as a pill. These usually contain the least toxic chemicals, and they don't leave a residue on your pet or in your home.
• NRDC notes that if you do need to buy an off-the-shelf flea and tick product, avoid flea collars that list tetrachlorvinphos or propoxur as active ingredients. Other products to avoid include permethrin-based products and tick-control products containing amitraz or carbaryl.
• Instead, opt for safer products whose labels list lufenuron, spinosad, methoprene, or pyriproxyfen. These are common and effective insect growth regulators (Learn more about safer products at NRDC's Green Paws product guide.)
How to Deal With Fleas
We turned to the book Paleo Dog for more tips on battling fleas in a less harmful way:
On Your Dog
• Use an ultrafine flea comb daily on dogs with amenable coats. The neck, tummy, and base of the tail are favorite flea hangouts. Have a glass full of warm, soapy water at hand to drown any fleas you catch in the comb.
• Bathing your dog will drown a lot of fleas, but soap up around the ears and neck first to keep them from rushing up to the dog's head and face. The herb erigeron (fleabane), found in some herbal shampoos, will help kill fleas (Too-frequent bathing or harsh soaps can dry the skin, so use caution.)
Bathing with essential oils will also help kill fleas. It is easy to make your own natural Pet shampoo without any chemicals or harmful products. This shampoo has great ingredients to fortify your pets skin and fur. Contact me for details.
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In Your Home
• Vacuuming is very effective against flea eggs and might even catch a few adults. To keep them from hatching or escaping, carefully apply flea spray into the vacuum bag or container and immediately discard the bag or empty the canister when you're done.
• Wash bedding (whatever the dog sleeps on) at least weekly. Putting a towel or fleece in favored areas will help confine the pests. Pick it up by the corners to prevent flea eggs from falling out.
• You can treat your home with a product containing borates or hire an exterminator like Fleabusters or Flea Stoppers. If you have a serious flea problem, it's worth paying professionals since they guarantee their work.
You can also make your own flea power and save the cost of Fleabusters which isn’t cheap and that product still isn’t that great for your dog’s skin to be near. Here are some essential oils that are good for fleas: Repellent Blend, Peppermint, Cleansing Blend, Geranium & Cedarwood. Contact me for more details.
In the Yard
• Beneficial, predatory nematodes eat flea eggs and will help control flea populations outdoors.
• Garden-grade diatomaceous earth will cut and desiccate flea larvae and eggs. Spread the powder liberally on the ground throughout areas under shrubs, decks, and other cool, shady spots where animals (such as raccoons, skunks, and outdoor and feral cats) are most likely to hang out. (Note, this will also kill many beneficial insects, too.)