California Court: Toxic Pet Products Must Have Warning Labels

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Slusark, 212-727-4592 or kslusark@nrdc.org

California Court: Toxic Pet Products Must Have Warning Labels

NRDC Lawsuit Halts Retailers and Manufacturers from Selling Potentially Harmful Flea Collars Without a Warning Label

SAN FRANCISCO - Major pet product retailers and
manufacturers  will not sell flea and tick collars in California that
contain a cancer-causing chemical without a warning label, according to a
settlement in a lawsuit brought by the Natural Resources Defense
Council.

"When you pick up a flea collar at the pet store, you just
want to stop your dog or cat from scratching; you don't want to put
their health -- or your family's -- in jeopardy," said NRDC Scientist
Miriam Rotkin-Ellman. "Warning labels will now help pet owners better
avoid bringing dangerous chemicals into their homes against their will."

Under the settlement, 18 pet product retailers and
manufacturers, including PetSmart and PETCO, agreed not to distribute or
sell flea collars containing propoxur without a warning that they
include a chemical listed as a known carcinogen in California. By law,
these products should have received warning labels as of August 11,
2007.

NRDC filed the lawsuit against the companies in California
Superior Court in Alameda County last year for failing to comply with
California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. This law
prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing consumers to any chemical
"known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive harm" without proper
warning.

In addition to securing warning labels in California, NRDC
petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency last year to remove these
toxic chemicals altogether from pet products nationwide. The petition
is still pending. NRDC testing and careful calculations reveal that the
EPA's decision to leave these products on the market may create a
significant health risk to pets and pet owners, most notably young
children. EPA's most recent risk assessment of flea collars with
propoxur also confirms that these products pose unacceptably high risks
for children.

"The bottom line is -- these products are so dangerous that
they don't belong on store shelves," said Rotkin-Ellman. "EPA, PETCO,
PetSmart and the rest of the pet product industry know this and should
do the right thing. Ultimately the only way to truly protect people and
animals from the toxic, cancer-causing chemicals in flea collars is to
ban them from the products altogether."

A 2009 NRDC scientific analysis, Poison on Pets II,
found high levels of propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) -- both
chemicals common in household pet products that can damage the brain and
nervous system, as well as cause cancer -- on pet fur after use of
ordinary flea collars. This not only poses serious health risks for the
pets who wear the collars, but exposes their human owners and families
to the dangerous chemicals. This is a particular concern for children
because their neurological and metabolic systems are still developing,
and they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths after
petting an animal, causing them to ingest the hazardous residues.

A 2000 NRDC report, Poison on Pets, has already led to
the ban of six other dangerous pesticides in pet products, but products
containing propoxur and TCVP are still on store shelves. 

There are safer methods of flea and tick control available
that won't poison pets or people, including frequently using a flea
comb, and regularly bathing pets, washing their bedding, and
vacuuming. If chemical-based flea control is necessary, the safest
options often containing the least toxic chemicals are those dispensed
by pill. NRDC offers a free online flea and tick product guide for pet
owners that ranks more than 125 products, categorizing them by the level
of their potential health threat, at www.greenpaws.org.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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