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Bad Chemistry
What’s worse than fleas? Maybe flea collars.

Almost before I finished typing up a blog about a disturbing report on the canine health risks posed by over-the-counter, spot-on pesticides, I saw the latest news about flea collars. Last week, the National Resource Defense Council filed a lawsuit alleging that 16 retailers and manufacturers—we’re talking the big guys here—failed to warn consumers about exposure to unsafe levels of known carcinogens and neurotoxins in violation of California anti-toxics laws.

Once again we’re being warned: “Just because it’s sold in stores doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

The NRDC’s groundbreaking Poison on Pets II study found “that high levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog’s or cat’s fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal. Residue levels produced by some flea collars are so high that they pose a risk of cancer and damage to the neurological system of children up to 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s acceptable levels.” Something tells me the fact that this study identifies the risk to two-legged children will help the cause garner broader attention.

Meanwhile, it’s flea season across the nation and guardians need better, safer options right way. At Green Paws, the NRDC offers practical advice including a video (see below) on fighting fleas the old fashioned way, a product guide, and a wallet-sized primer on chemicals and herbal options.


Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com
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Submitted by Kathy Konetzka-Close | April 30 2009 |

If you feel you have to use a flea collar, the only place it should be is inside your vacuum bag. Wear rubber gloves when you open the package, cut the collar in half and put half in the vacuum bag and repackage the other half for use later. It's hard to be completely "green" when you're dealing with a house full of bloodsuckers that have moved in, but flea collars are terrible things to put on your pet. Old fashioned 20 mule team borax worked into the carpet fibers and floor cracks does wonders on the eggs, and frequent vacuuming will keep the numbers down in the house. Also, frequent flea combing, shampooing when necessary (and it's not really a requirement to use a flea shampoo--all soap will drown fleas)and constant vigilance is required. And when you have to use tougher measures, do so with intelligence and caution. I do apply Frontline once or twice a flea season, but only when I'm feeling overwhelmed. My top line of defense is vacuum, vacuum, vacuum!!!

Submitted by Carolyn with Ma... | April 30 2009 |

Knowing what I know now, I feel terrible about the many years my previous dog (we're talking 1980's) wore a flea collar. "When we know better, we do better."

I do my best to bathe my dog regularly and wash bedding. We have vinyl floors so the upkeep is easy and I use a non-toxic cleaner weekly (white vinegar with a few drops of lavender oil) but, I'm in the tropics, so fleas and ticks (and other parasites) are a constant hazard.

Every now and then, when we walk, Maggie will hit a "baby tick bush" (I guess) and be covered with hundreds of pepper-grain sized ticks. She's long haired and even though I keep her trimmed, they are hell to get out even with bathing. That's when I turn (reluctantly) to the Frontline.

Nice film, thanks for sharing it.

Submitted by Whitney | April 30 2009 |

I'm glad we haven't used flea collars on our dogs, Jasper and Penny, or on our cat, Moon, either. We use tube flea repelant stuff, but it doesn't work well, we'd been thinking about flea collars. We'll just have to give them more baths than they already get. Don't tell them that, though.

Submitted by Erin | May 8 2009 |

When I was younger, my family would use flea collars on our dogs but I remember how horrible they smelled! Unfortunately, that was in the late 80's early 90's and flea collars were the norm. I should have known that something that smelled that bad could not have been good. I'm glad that we stopped using flea collars about ten years ago.

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