NRDC Wants Chemicals Removed from Pet Products

The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit in California against major pet product retailers and manufacturers for illegally selling pet products containing a known cancer-causing chemical called propoxur without proper warning labels.

A new scientific analysis also released on April 23, NRDC found high levels of propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), another carcinogenic neurotoxin common in household pet products, on pet fur after use of ordinary flea collars. NRDC is also petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for the removal of these chemicals from pet products.

"Just because a product is sold in stores does not mean it is safe," said Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC senior scientist and physician. "Under California law, consumers have a right to know if a flea control product exposes them to health risks before they buy it."

NRDC filed its lawsuit in California Superior Court in Alameda County against 16 retailers and manufacturers, including Petsmart, PetCo, and, for failing to comply with California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, known as Proposition 65, which prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing consumers without proper warning to any chemical "known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive harm." These companies have failed to caution consumers about exposure to propoxur from the use of their products, which should have been labeled with a warning as of Aug. 11, 2007. Proposition 65 provides for penalties of up to $2,500 for every violation.

NRDC's new report, "Poison on Pets II," found flea collars containing TCVP and propoxur pose serious neurological and cancer risks. These chemical-laden flea collars expose humans to highly hazardous chemicals that can damage the brain and nervous system and cause cancer. Children are particularly at risk from these pesticides because their neurological and metabolic systems are still developing. They are also more likely than adults to put their hands in their mouths after petting an animal, leading to the ingestion of hazardous residues.

"Poison on Pets II" tested the fur of dogs and cats wearing flea collars to measure the invisible pesticide residues left on the pets from these collars. This analysis, which was the first study of propoxur residues on pet fur, found that propoxur levels are so high in some products that they pose a cancer risk in children that is up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA's acceptable levels, and up to 500 times higher for adults. The study also showed that after three days, 100 percent of the pets wearing collars containing propoxur and 50 percent of the pets wearing collars with TCVP posed a significant neurological risk to toddlers. Testing also revealed that unsafe levels of pesticide residue remain on a dog's or cat's fur two weeks after a collar is put on an animal. Families with multiple pets that wear flea collars have even greater exposure risks.

EPA has never compiled data on pesticide levels found on a pet's fur after use of flea collars.

The availability of many effective and safer alternatives for flea and tick control makes the continued use of these pesticides an unnecessary risk. NRDC's groundbreaking 2000 report "Poison on Pets" led to the ban of six other pesticides in pet products, but products containing TCVP and propoxur are still on store shelves.

Visit NRDC's flea and tick product guide that ranks more than 125 products, categorizing products by the level of their potential health threat, at NRDC's Green Paws Web site.