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Popular flea collars to be discontinued due to human safety concerns

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Two pet product firms have agreed to stop making Bansect, Biospot, Sentry and Zodiac flea and tick collars that contain the "potentially harmful" pesticide propoxur, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced March 14.

The EPA said its “risk assessment” determined that propoxur presents “unacceptable risks” to children who are exposed to the pet collars on the first day after application.

The popular anti-flea collars work by leaving a pesticide residue on an animal’s fur. The chemical can be transferred to people who touch a treated cat or dog. It can then be absorbed into a person’s skin or, in the case of small children, ingested if they put their contaminated hands in their mouths. According to the EPA, excessive exposure to propoxur can cause such "poisoning" symptoms as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulty and blurring of vision.

“Because the manufacturers could not find a way to eliminate unacceptable risk under all scenarios, EPA encouraged them to cancel these products and they subsequently agreed,” the agency said.

Under the “cancellation agreement,” the manufacturers -- Sergeant’s Pet Care and Wellmark International -- can produce the propoxur pet collars until April 1, 2015. They will not be allowed to distribute the products after April 1, 2016.

The collars are still deemed safe for use on cats and dogs, but the EPA urged consumers to wash their hands with soap and water after handling a propoxur pet collar. Children should not play with the collars, and young children should be kept away from a pet for a day after a new collar is put on.

“If you decide to use propoxur pet collars, follow the label instructions carefully and your pet should be fine,” the agency said.

The agency said it conducted the risk assessment in response to a 2009 petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which asserted that propoxur can harm children's brains and nervous systems. The council welcomed the cancellation announcement but said the phaseout should occur more quickly and should also apply to collars that contain tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP).

More details about the announcement are available in a question-and-answer format here.

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