Posted: March 18, 2014, 6:05 p.m. EDT
By Clay Jackson
Sergeant’s Pet Care Products Inc. and Wellmark International have agreed to phase out the use of the chemical propoxur in pet flea collars.
The announcement Thursday followed the filing of a lawsuit in February by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act on previous petitions that urged the government to ban propoxur in flea-control products. The timing of the lawsuit and the voluntary agreement between EPA and the manufacturers was coincidental, said council health attorney Mae Wu.
"More likely [the voluntary ban] was a result of the petitions that we filed many years ago,” Wu said.
When used in flea collars, propoxur may harm the brains and nervous systems of children.
Jim Jones, assistant administrator in the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, called the action "another example of EPA’s efforts to protect children from pesticide risks.”
"This voluntary move will get to an expedient result that protects people’s health,” Jones said.
is a neurotoxin and known carcinogen that authorities say poses a risk to the brains and nervous systems of children. People who handle propoxur pet collars may ingest the chemical if they also touch their mouth, experts state.
The agreement allows Sergeant’s and Wellmark to produce pet collars using propoxur until April 1, 2015, and distribute them until April 1, 2016. Most flea collars have a shelf life of up to five years, according the Natural Resources Defense Council.
, based in Omaha, Neb., agreed to cancel EPA
registrations for the Dual Action, Sendran and 933 Plus flea and tick collars, all of which use propoxur.
"We are pleased to be able to work with EPA to resolve this matter amicably and ensure that our customers can continue to benefit from uninterrupted access to Sergeant’s products,” said Caryn Stichler, vice president of marketing.
"Sergeant’s remains committed to compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements,” she added.
Schaumburg, Ill.-based Wellmark, whose Adams Plus collar contains propoxur, did not respond to requests for comment.
The cancellation notice is a partial victory for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has had propoxur in its sights since 2000, when the organization’s first "Poisons on Pets” report highlighted the dangers.
The cancellation of propoxur’s registration is the most significant step the EPA has taken to remove toxic chemicals from flea collars, but the action doesn’t go far enough, the council argued.
"We are disappointed that the voluntary cancellation lets companies continue making these products for another year, sell them for another year after that, and allows them to remain on store shelves until they are completely gone,” Wu said.
The phase-out is a decent start, said Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"It’s good to see EPA and pet companies start to address the health threat from toxic chemicals in flea collars, but our kids still need better and more complete protection,” Rotkin-Ellman said. "EPA found a risk to kids, and that deserves immediate action, not a slow retreat.”
The EPA first determined that flea collars using propoxur presented unsafe exposure levels in 2010 and confirmed that the products were not safe almost six months ago, the council reported.
The EPA should start "fast-tracking efforts to prohibit the continued production of these dangerous collars,” Rotkin-Ellman said.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is examining its options, Wu said.
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