Pet Flea Collar Chemical Safety Must Be Reexamined by EPA: Court

The EPA has to re-evaluate a pet flea collar chemical safety petition by environmentalists after a federal appeals court found the agency did not follow its own rules in rejecting the petition.

A federal appeals court has ordered environmental regulators to review the safety of the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP), often used in pet flea collars, indicating that the agency failed to adhere to its own standards when it denyied a recent safety petition.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion (PDF) on April 20, indicating that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must review a petition filed by the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), which called for a ban on TCVP, after the agency gave inadequate reasons for denying the petition, according to the Court.

The NRDC petition claimed pet collars designed to release TCVP in dust or liquid form became a health risk for children, who are likely to pet animals wearing the collars, get the substance on their fingers, and then put their fingers into their mouths. However, the EPA rejected the petition, and now the Ninth Circuit says those rejections were based on faulty logic and a failure of the EPA to follow its own standards.

One example the court gave was the EPA’s rejection of a key finding of a study, which determined that 97.2% of the dust from flea collars which used TCVP contained the chemical. The EPA had assumed only about 15% of the dust from the collars contained TCVP. However, the EPA used that same study to hold up other aspects of its arguments, arbitrarily rejecting the 97.2% number, according to the court.

The Ninth Circuit pointed out that the EPA deemed the study to be the “best means” for deciding how TCVP was released from the collars, before discarding one of its key findings with no reason given.

“At times, NRDC’s efforts to receive a reasoned response from EPA have seemed Sisyphean as the agency consistently delayed its decision,” the Court stated in the opinion. “After NRDC had doggedly pursued this matter for more than a dozen years, when EPA finally did reach a decision under pressure from a mandamus order of our court, NRFC was justified in expecting a rational, supported, and reasoned response from EPA. EPA, though, did not provide a well-reasoned or reasonable decision. Instead, its stated reasons were cursorty and often at odds with EPA’s own prior assumptions and statements.”

The court ordered the EPA to re-evaluate the NRDC petition over the pet flea collar chemical safety based on the actual evidence before it, and return with a new decision in 120 days.

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The decision comes amid increased scrutiny of pet flea and tick collars after the discovery last year that Seresto flea collars had been linked to more than 75,000 adverse health reactions, including nearly 1,700 pet deaths and illnesses among humans.

While the active ingredients in Seresto are imidacloprid and flumethrin, and not TVCP, many of the concerns about handling the collars and the potential health risks are similar.

In August, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all Seresto Flea and Tick Collar lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois under U.S. District Judge John R. Blakey for pretrial proceedings.


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