Safer Flea Treatment for Pets

Is there anything cuter than a toddler wrapping his or her arms around a dog’s neck, snuggling their face into the soft fur? Or having the kiddos cuddle up with the family cat during their an afternoon nap? We’ve all taken pictures of our kids, nieces and nephews engaging in such warm and fuzzy behavior, but what happens if your beloved pet is wearing a toxic pesticide that has been linked to harming the nervous system and cancer? Do you know what pesticide is being used in your pet’s flea treatment?

toxic flea collars

These seemingly innocent exposures are what concerned the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about a pesticide commonly used for flea treatment, called tetrachlovinphos (TCVP). In response to health concerns, NRDC petitioned the EPA to ban this toxic ingredient in February of 2014.

Last week NRDC got the news that the EPA was not going to ban TCVP, despite health concerns, widespread exposure in our homes and the availability of safer options.

What are the health concerns with TCVP?

TCVP is toxic to the nervous system and has been classified by the EPA as a likely human carcinogen (yes, this is the same agency that just decided not to ban it). Scientists have sounded the alarm on pesticides being toxic to the nervous system and harming the brain for decades.

Many people will carefully select food that was grown with little to no pesticides, but unknowingly bring harmful chemicals into their homes through flea treatment for their pets.

How are we exposed & do those exposures matter?

We know that small doses do matter when it comes to our exposure to certain toxic chemicals. But here’s the deal, the exposures from flea treatments aren’t so small and the pesticides are highly toxic. NRDC tested the exposure to TCVP and found that there was widespread exposure on children’s hands far exceeding the EPA’s “allowable” thresholds and the chemicals widely contaminate indoor air and stay on pet fur for weeks.

We are exposed to the pesticides in several ways; the chemicals are easily transferred to children’s and adult’s hands and are easily absorbed through simple actions like eating or when children suck on their hands.

Indoor air pollution is another unexpected and important exposure route. If your pet is walking around your home with at toxic flea treatment, NRDC found that the pesticide contaminates the air you breathe in your home. Since children play on the floor and roll around where pets do, they are at yet another an increased risk for exposure.

We want our pets to be loved, not off gasing pesticides.

What brands use toxic TCVP?

Hartz is the primary brand that still uses TCVP. Please also watch out for other brands that use harmful pesticides by referencing this flea treatment “products to avoid list”.

What are safer flea treatment options?

NRDC has a handy and interactive website where you can search your current pest control brand to see how it ranks. I like to look at the list of safer pest control options, to make it easier to sift through the long list. There are also more natural methods to control pests as well including grooming, keeping outdoor spaces maintained, vacuuming and essential oils.

Essential oils for pest control

You may notice that on the list of safer pest control options are several essential oils. Some of NRDC’s recommendations for essential oils include:

  • Cedarwood
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

You can learn more about why I choose Young Living essential oils and order them here.

Before you buy your pet’s next flea treatment:

  • Talk to your veterinarian about flea control options that are ingested, which can be a safer alternative than applying toxic pesticides to your pet’s fur;
  • Look over this list to make sure you’re buying a safer pest control option;
  • Use techniques to manage pests that don’t involve toxic chemicals, like essential oils, washing and vacuuming your pet.
  • Share this information with your friends and family;
  • Join my email list to receive similar articles every week in your inbox!

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(Photo credit: jbird – Flickr CC)

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7 Responses to Safer Flea Treatment for Pets

  1. Tiffany (NatureMom) November 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Makes me kinda glad I don’t have pets. This would really worry me!

  2. Green Bean November 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Incredibly helpful link to toxicity of flea treatments. We had a major outbreak of fleas last year that no amount of vacuuming, shampooing, laundering could touch and had to use some of the flea treatment on our indoor cats to get rid of the problem. I was surprised to see that even Neem Oil – which is a recommended organic pesticide – was on the list as two out of three. Yikes

  3. Betsy (Eco-novice) November 14, 2014 at 5:36 am #

    We are thinking of getting a dog and this issue definitely concerns me.

  4. Leigh November 14, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    My dog had some neurological issues a few years ago and ever since I stop using the chemical based flea and tick medicines. He has been fine since I stopped but it always concerned me about his health and the potential exposure to my kids.

  5. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green November 14, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    My dog got fleas a few years ago and I got rid of them by bathing her every day for about a week with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap. She is white and you could see the blood on her from the fleas dissolving in the soap!

    I also would spray her for awhile around this time with diluted peppermint oil.

  6. Betsy (Eco-novice) November 15, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Love the embedded tweet, Lindsay.

  7. Sharon Jeanguenat January 19, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    I have 2 cats, & the male is allergic to fleas, & to most flea medicines. I can use Front Line on him, or the Advantage. Both work ok, but in about 2 weeks, the fleas are back. A few months ago, I bought a flea med that claims to be ‘green’, by Sargent’s. But, when I used it on my female cat, she started foaming at the mouth, & I had the stuff on my hands, even though I never touched the contents, nor touched the spot where I put it. So I’m definitely on the look out for something that I cam use that doesn’t make my fur babies sick, or cause them discomfort.

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