WASHINGTON— Popular pet flea collars and treatments contain high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals, according to laboratory test results posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down and can accumulate in humans. They are associated with a variety of ailments, including suppressed immune function, thyroid disease, testicular and kidney cancers and liver damage.
Popular flea and tick products were sent to a certified lab, which found that:
- Frontline Plus for Dogs, a popular topical flea and tick product, contains 2,390 parts per trillion (ppt) of four different PFAS, including GenX. Frontline is a liquid pesticide applied between the pets’ shoulder blades once a month; it spreads throughout the skin and fur.
- Seresto flea and tick collars contain 250 ppt of a long-chain PFAS. Seresto is a plastic band impregnated with insecticides and other ingredients that are released over time and coat an animal’s fur.
By comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to promulgate legal limits but has established a 70 ppt lifetime health advisory for two types of PFAS (PFOA and PFOS) in drinking water. Leading scientists have called for a drinking water safety limit of 0.1 ppt for PFOA.
After testing by PEER revealed PFAS levels of 250-500 ppt in Anvil 10+10, a widely used, aerially sprayed insecticide, the EPA asked states with existing stocks of Anvil to discontinue its use in order to minimize risks to both the environment and human health.
“EPA’s oversight of pest control products is beyond negligent,” said PEER science policy director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the EPA. “EPA insists that pesticides do not contain PFAS as deliberately added ingredients, yet PFAS are on both EPA's approved list of inert ingredients and are active ingredients in a number of pesticide products. On one hand, EPA declares the urgent need to control the spread of PFAS, while its other hand facilitates the spread of PFAS through lax pesticide regulation.”
One major concern is that people can be exposed to these products though their skin by petting and playing with their pets. And children face even greater risk through their frequent hand-to-mouth behavior.
A recent study found dogs and cats are highly exposed to PFAS and often exposed to concentrations well above the minimum risk level identified for humans.
The troubling findings regarding PFAS in flea-control products comes after documents obtained from the EPA revealed the agency has received more than 75,000 complaints linking the Seresto flea collar to harms ranging from skin irritation to nearly 1,700 pet deaths. Yet the agency has taken no action in response to the reports such as recalling the product or issuing a nationwide warning to the public of its potential dangers.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal legal petition last month urging the EPA to cancel the registration of the Seresto collar, which is also linked to nearly 1,000 incidents of harm to humans.
“The trust the public puts in our regulatory agencies is being blatantly violated by the EPA’s pesticide office,” said Nathan Donley environmental health science director at the Center. “The lack of transparency here is dumbfounding. Not only are we finding out that these products are associated with high levels of harm, but they include dangerous ingredients that are not even being disclosed.”
PFAS can be found in some food packaging and a wide variety of industrial and household products — including nonstick materials, cleaning products and firefighting foams.
Look at PFAS test results
See thousands of consumer flea collar complaints
Examine PFAS levels in pesticides