EPA Cracks Down on Flea & Tick Labels

photo via epa.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 18, 2010 —The Environmental Protection Agency is ordering clearer labels for flea and tick treatments that are applied directly to dogs’ and cats’ skin, 15 months after the Center for Public Integrity revealed serious problems with some “spot-on” pet treatments in its investigation, Perils of the New Pesticides.

The Center’s investigation examined pyrethroid-based treatments for pets, which are typically used in cheaper spot-on products sold at grocery stores and by other retailers. About 1,600 deaths were reported to the EPA over a five-year period — as well as seizures, heart attacks, and gastrointestinal illnesses — in animals treated with pyrethroid-based products, the Center’s analysis showed.

Steve Owens, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said on Wednesday the number of reported incidents connected with all spot-on products jumped from about 28,000 in 2007 to 44,000 in 2008. “We found that a number of the current labels have insufficient warning statements on them,” Owens said during a media teleconference. “Sometimes the labels were hard to read and the warnings were buried in the text.”

Owens classified most of the 44,000 pet incidents in 2008 as minor, but said there were about 600 reported deaths. An EPA report in 2008 reviewed spot-on pet product incidents. If the EPA’s stricter requirements for labels on all spot-on products don’t reduce the number of pet illnesses and deaths, Owens warned:  “We will take more significant action going forward. We will remove products from the market if we have to.”

The Center’s investigation in December 2008 focused on spot-on products containing active ingredients from the pyrethroid family of chemicals, which are synthetic relatives of pyrethrins, extracted from the chrysanthemum plant.

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