Monday, February 2, 2009
Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk
Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk
By M.B. Pell and Jillian Olsen, The Center for Public Integrityhttp://www.alternet.org/story/123420/
Last June Diane Bromenschenkel applied a flea-and-tick product to herEnglish pointer, Wings, so the dog wouldn't get ticks while huntingpheasant in the tall grasslands of western Idaho. Wings, a healthyfive-year-old with a sleek white coat and a chocolate brown mask,enjoyed long walks in the woods, bacon treats, and burying things inthe yard. But three months after the pesticide was applied, the animalwas dead.
It was just hours following the use of the product that Bromenschenkelknew something was wrong. She noticed her dog walking around in adaze. Wings was unresponsive. On the advice of her veterinarian,Bromenschenkel tried to wash off the treatment —Bio Spot Spot On Fleaand Tick Control for Dogs -- but the next day Wings was stillsuffering.
The dog stopped eating and drinking despite the application ofappetite increasers, said Patricia Pence, the veterinarian and ownerof South Wind Veterinary Hospital in Nampa, Idaho, where Wings wastreated. "The anorexia is a direct result of the Bio Spot," Pencesaid. She believes the insecticide in Bio Spot damaged the portion ofWings' brain responsible for hunger and thirst. So she inserted afeeding tube into the dog's neck and for the next three monthsBromenschenkel and Wings were in and out of the veterinary hospital.
During this period, Bromenschenkel woke up every two hours at night togive Wings an injection of liquid nutrient through the neck. She spentthousands of dollars on vet bills. Despite the best efforts ofBromenschenkel and Pence, however, the damage was done. In September,Wings' kidneys failed and Bromenschenkel made the difficult decisionto put her dog to sleep. In days Wings had gone from a healthy dog,running alongside horses in the Owyhee Mountains, to an emaciatedwreck, chasing phantom birds in the kitchen. "What's so terrible aboutit is that if you had known, you would never have used it," saidBromenschenkel of the Bio Spot.The Debate Over Pyrethroids
imageWings died three months after being treated with Bio Spot fleaand tick drops; her vet thinks the product damaged the part of Wings'brain responsible for hunger and thirst. Credit: Diane Bromenschenkel.Bio Spot contains a 45 percent solution of the active ingredientpermethrin, a synthetic neurotoxin belonging to the pyrethroid familyof chemicals. Bio Spot is one of several over-the-counter spot on(meaning squeezed on to a particular spot) anti-flea-and-tick productsthat consumers apply to cats and dogs between the shoulder blades andsometimes at the base of the tail. The animal's natural oils spreadthe insecticide over its body, making its skin and fur inhospitable toparasites. These pyrethroid-based flea and tick treatments -- fromHartz, Sergeant's, Farnam, and Bayer -- are approved for sale by theEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA), and they are readily availableat grocery stores, specialty pet retailers, and hardware stores. Butthey are also linked to thousands of reported pet poisonings, and theyhave stirred the ire of pet owners, the concern of veterinarians, andthe attention of regulatory agencies.
Manufacturers and distributors of over-the-counter spot on treatmentssay the products are generally safe and effective when used properly,but they concede there are cats and dogs that either have apreexisting condition or an acute sensitivity to these treatments thatleads to an illness.
The industry position, however, may dismiss safety concerns toocasually. At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments withpyrethroids were reported to the EPA over the last five years,according to an analysis of EPA pesticide incident exposure data bythe Center for Public Integrity. That is about double the number ofreported fatalities tied to similar treatments without pyrethroids,such as Frontline and Advantage -- although these products also havecritics.
Pyrethroid spot ons also account for more than half of "major"pesticide pet reactions reported to EPA over the last five years --that is, those incidents involving serious medical reactions such asbrain damage, heart attacks, and violent seizures. In contrast, non-pyrethroid spot on treatments accounted for only about 6 percent ofall major incidents.
In the last five years, the EPA received a total of more than 25,000reports of pet pesticide reactions of every sort -- fatal, major,moderate, and minor -- to over-the-counter pyrethroid spot onproducts. This compares to 10,500 reports of all pet incidents relatedto shampoos, powders, sprays, collars, dips, mousses, lotions, andtowels. This analysis does not take into account how much of eachproduct was used over the last five years as the EPA does not havethat information.
The EPA cautions that it does not confirm the authenticity of thesereports and most of the claims come from consumers and not trainedtoxicologists. The EPA uses the database to observe broad trends andto identify significant spikes in incidents for specific products andchemicals.Warning Signs
A few websites, run by pet owners, specialize in educating people onthe dangers of over-the-counter spot on treatments. Almost every daysomeone posts a new horror story, often involving a late-nightemergency trip to the vet. "I cannot stop crying knowing that if Ihadn't put that on them then they would still be here playing andloving as they always did before," reads one post about a woman's lossof two kittens in October.
imageEllie, a mini dachshund from La Vernia, Texas, suffered chemicalburns where Bio Spot flea and tick drops were applied to her back.Credit: Michele Worcester.
The concentrations of pyrethroids in over-the-counter spot on pettreatments range from a 40 percent to an 85 percent solution, eight to17 times stronger than the strongest pyrethroid product currentlyapproved for use on humans. Neither the EPA, which generally regulatestopically applied products, nor the Food and Drug Administration,which generally regulates orally applied pet products, has a productregistered for human application containing a pyrethroid concentrationabove 5 percent, and that FDA-approved product requires a doctor'sprescription. In fact, the Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs warningreads: "Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin," while theapplication portion of the label directs people to apply the treatment"to the dog's skin."
But these high concentrations may be necessary in pet products becausepets are more apt to come in contact with fleas and ticks, accordingto Margaret Rice, chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programsregistration branch. Some human products, like the 5 percentpermethrin shampoo, also call for more of the product to be appliedthan the just under one ounce in the spot on treatments.
Pyrethroid toxicity targets nerve and muscle cells in pets, accordingto a study published in The Veterinary Journal in June 2008. The studyfound that dermal exposure by application to the skin or coat is themost common route of toxic exposure, potentially causinghyperexcitability, tremors, profuse salivation, and seizures. Theseizures can result in brain damage or, less frequently, death.
Representatives of Central LifeSciences, the parent company of Farnam,the distributor of Bio Spot, said that they could not discuss thedeath of Wings because their investigation of the incident is stillunderway. The company said reports of adverse reactions are rare,about three of every 10,000 doses for cat products and five of every10,000 doses for dog products. These numbers include incidents thatresulted from misapplication and preexisting medical conditions,according to Central LifeSciences. "Bio Spot Spot On Flea & TickControl for Dogs has met all applicable EPA registration requirementsand is approved for topical use on dogs," the company said in a letterthey sent in July to one unhappy customer whose dog had recently died.
"Even if it is owner error much of the time, something is not workingthe way it should be," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach forthe Humane Society of the United States.
Hartz Mountain Corp. representatives said via e-mail that the activeingredient in the company's spot on dog treatments, the pyrethroid d-phenothrin, and the active ingredient in their cat product that killsadult fleas, the pyrethroid etofenprox, are categorized as least toxicby the EPA, as opposed to the active ingredient in Frontline,fipronil, and the active ingredient in Advantage, imidacloprid, which,while much less concentrated, are rated as moderately toxic.Sergeant's cat spot on treatments also contain etofenprox, but thecompany has spot on dog products that contain cyphenothrin andproducts that contain permethrin, moderately toxic pyrethroids.
Another possible explanation for the number of incidents is thatconsumers often misuse flea and tick products, causing the sicknessthat pet owners later blame on the treatments, said Jennifer Windrum,a spokeswoman for Sergeant's. "Pet owners feel incredibly guilty ifthey misapply it to their pet," Windrum said. "It's easier to blame acompany." Common misapplications include applying more powerful dogproducts to cats, applying the product where the pet can lick it, andusing a treatment meant for a large animal on a small one. Thedirections on these products include a description of where to apply,sometimes a diagram, and if it's a dog product, multiple warnings notto it use on cats.
Forest Desmond and his wife Marilynn received a letter from Sergeant'soffering to pay their $125 vet bill after they applied Sergeant's GoldSqueeze-On for Dogs to their five dogs. The letter from Sergeant'salso stated that the company believed the dogs may have licked theproduct off each other, a violation of the application instructions."The Sergeant's Gold Squeeze-On for Dogs is for external use only andhas several warnings on the package indicating such," the letter says.The product's label does not instruct consumers to keep dogs separatedafter treatment, but Sergeant's has submitted a request to the EPA tohave the label changed. Sergeant's "Look at the Label" website alreadyrecommends people separate their pets after application.
"What they're trying to say is the dogs licked it off each other andthereby took it in internally, but they didn't lick it off, it burnedtheir skin," Marilynn Desmond said. "My response to that is they'retrying to shift the blame from the producer to the user. If this hadbeen my first dog, I might have fallen for that."
The authors of the study in The Veterinary Journal agree that misuseof pyrethroid products is often the cause of illnesses, although theyalso point out that accidental ingestion by mouth or during groomingis another common exposure route. "The best way to avoid seriousproblems is by educating pet owners to use products strictly accordingto label directions," the study says. "Veterinarians must adviseclients using flea care products to read and follow label instructionscompletely before applying them on or around their pets." The rubhere, some veterinarians say, is pyrethroid spot on treatments areover-the-counter products, easily purchased without consulting aveterinarian.
Michael Murphy, a veterinarian and toxicologist at the University ofMinnesota, speaking for the American Veterinary Medical Association,said he rarely hears of pet reactions to spot on treatments, and whenhe does it's usually because a consumer applied a stronger dog productto a cat. But for some pet advocates, the misapplication explanationmisses the point. The Humane Society of the United States has heardthis reasoning before, but still recommends pet owners avoid over-the-counter spot on products and only use treatments recommended byveterinarians, according to Stephanie Shain, the organization'sdirector of outreach. "With the number of complaints we get it seemslike an extraordinarily high rate of problems," she said. "Even if itis owner error much of the time, something is not working the way itshould be. I think at the very least there need to be much strongerwarnings on those products cautioning pet owners about the dangersinvolved with using them."
Others express similar concerns. "Sometimes I wonder why it's stillapproved," said Mark Grossman, a co-owner and veterinarian of RoanokeIsland Animal Clinic and a toxicology consultant for the VeterinaryInformation Network. "They can't get it out there without the EPAapproving it. Apparently they say if they do enough tests, it's stillOK. In real life though, I think we're seeing more problems than weshould."
Paying the Bills
After Samantha Ribble's English bulldog, Bella, and pug, Chloe,developed oozing sores where she placed drops of Sergeant's GoldSqueeze on for Dogs, she asked Sergeant's to pay her veterinarianbill, $309. Without admitting any liability, Sergeant's agreed to paythe bill, on the condition that Ribble sign a release that read asfollows: "I agree not to make any oral or written communication whichdisparages or has the effect of damaging the reputation of orotherwise working in any way to the detriment of Sergeant's. ThisRelease shall inure the benefit of Sergeant's heirs, legalrepresentatives, successors, and assigns and shall bind me and myheirs, legal representatives, successors, and assigns." In the sameletter, Sergeant's notes that its products are closely regulated bythe EPA and tested in "accordance with EPA rules and regulations inorder to ensure that the products are safe."
This is true. The EPA approved the company's pyrethroid spot ontreatments just as it has approved all spot on treatments, but theagency has a history of approving pet products in the past only topull them from the market later. The EPA approved the use ofchlorpyrifos products, cancelled for use on pets in 2001; diazinonproducts, cancelled for use on pets in 2001; and phosmet products,cancelled for use on pets by 2004. The products were approved,defended aggressively by the chemical industry, and then yanked offthe market. They were largely replaced by pyrethroid products, whichare generally thought to be less acutely toxic.
Even pyrethroid pet products, however, have been approved and thenpulled. In 2000, the EPA received a rash of reports from cat ownersconcerning Hartz Mountain Corp.'s Advanced Care Once a Month Flea &Tick Drops for Cats, a spot on treatment containing the pyrethroid d-phenothrin. The agency received reports of cats losing their hair,salivating uncontrollably, experiencing tremors, and sometimes dying.Judy Van Wyk of Rhode Island filed a lawsuit against Hartz in November2001 on behalf of pet owners whose cats had reacted to Hartz catdrops. The complaint alleged that "Hartz has also known since at leastMarch 2001 that adverse reactions in cats to the Drops is a commonproblem." The suit was voluntarily withdrawn in November 2002, whichmay indicate an out-of-court settlement, but neither Hartz nor Van Wykwould comment on the case.
Three years later, after the company and the agency experimentedunsuccessfully with stronger warning labels, the EPA entered intonegotiations with Hartz Mountain Corp. and the company agreed to stopselling the product.
"When we register these products, we feel they're safe," said MarionJohnson, branch chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programsregistration division.
Rice, chief of the EPA's Office of Pesticides registration branch,said the agency knows it has had problems with these products in thepast. Still the EPA holds the position, as with all productsregistered by the agency, that pyrethroid-based spot on treatments arenot harmful if consumers follow label instructions. The 25,000reported incidents alone will not change this conclusion, Rice said.The EPA is investigating pyrethroid incidents, involving both humansand pets, and when it finishes this process -- the EPA does not have atarget date yet for doing so -- it may make regulatory changes, butuntil then the agency stands by its conclusion. "Our decisions toregister these products and compounds are done with significant data,"said Marion Johnson, branch chief of the EPA's Office of PesticidePrograms registration division. "When we register these products, wefeel they're safe."
So safe in fact that Johnson said the EPA does not expect any petswill have a sensitivity to spot on products leading to an illness; theincident reports, in Johnson's view, are not at all definitive.Manufacturers, for their part, do acknowledge the existence ofsensitive cats and dogs. "There is a certain percentage of dogs outthere that, just like with humans, will have an allergic reaction nomatter what," Windrum, the Sergeant's spokeswoman, said. Less than 1percent of sales result in an adverse reaction when the product isused as directed by the label, she said.
The EPA cannot make its own assessment because unlike the regulationsdirecting the FDA's approval of human products, the FederalInsecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act does not require petproducts to undergo field trials prior to approval. So the agency canonly require less extensive testing, often only on one breed of dog orcat. This makes it difficult to predict the effects on the broaderpopulation of users.
The EPA also considers the need consumers have to control fleas andticks on their pets and the benefit provided by low-cost pyrethroidspot ons when making decisions about these products. The over-the-counter pyrethroid spot ons are typically half the price of Frontlineand Advantage.
EPA scientists continue to monitor the safety of pet pyrethroids. InNovember, several EPA employees at the Office of Research andDevelopment authored a piece in BMC Genomics, an online journal thatpublishes peer-reviewed articles, that found exposure to thepyrethroids permethrin and deltamethrin in young rats "could result indetrimental effects on neurological function later in life." The studyfound this was a possibility even using doses of permethrin that donot cause immediate, acute symptoms. The authors of the articlesuggested many other avenues of research -- including examining theeffects of other pyrethroids on neurological function.
The EPA also hopes to improve the quality of incident reports throughan online reporting system for veterinarians that began this fall. Inaddition, the agency is analyzing pet incidents to identify patternsthat may lead to additional labeling or further regulatory action, andreviewing the process of approving pet products to see if changes arewarranted.
"We need to make sound scientific decisions," Johnson said. "On theone hand we have the data that says this product might be safe and onthe other we have incidents that say it might not be."
© 2009 The Center for Public Integrity All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/123420/
Obama's Climate Change Negotiator Comes With PR PedigreeTopics: global warming public relations U.S. governmentSource: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 26, 2009
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has appointed Todd Sternspecial envoy on climate change. He will be the Obama Administration'schief climate negotiator in meetings such as COP15 in Copenhagen atthe end of 2009, which will discuss a possible successor agreement tothe Kyoto Protocol. Stern, an advocate of the U.S. taking significantaction on global warming, has worked as a partner at the law firmWilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr since July 2001. The firm'swebsite states that he "counsels companies, industry coalitions andother institutions on a wide variety of public policy issues. He hasrepresented clients in numerous House and Senate investigations. Hehas provided strategic advice to companies and institutions regardingproblems that carry significant political or public relations risk. Hehas also frequently advised on crisis management matters, includingadvising on the development and execution of media strategy that issensitive to both underlying legal concerns and public relationsimperatives." The firm's website does not identify which clients hehas worked for.
Coal Industry Front Group's Dirty TacticsTopics: front groups global warming lobbyingSource: DeSmog Blog, January 16, 2009
"Our goal is straightforward," wrote the head of the Center for Energyand Economic Development, now called the American Coalition for CleanCoal Electricity. "Persuade states that voluntary sequestrationactivities and technology investments are appropriate policies toaddress climate change concerns, while government mandatory controlsare not." The 2004 memo (pdf), written to the head of Peabody Energy,also details the industry front group's efforts to "sow discord amongthe RGGI states," the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by ten U.S.states. That was done via front group-sponsored research thatconcluded the RGGI states would face "negative economic consequences"for reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while having "aninfinitesimal affect on global GHG concentrations." On the federallevel, the memo boasts, "We activated the Americans for BalancedEnergy Choices (ABEC) citizen army to call targeted U.S. Senators," inopposition to the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill.
February 02, 2009
by Joanne ShuttleworthMercury Staff
But I'd go on a do not plow list if those sidewalk plow operatorswould honour it.
I'm in the camp that would rather shovel my own sidewalk than have thecity do it.
See, I already shovel my sidewalk, so when the sidewalk plow whizzesdown my street a day or two after a storm, all it does is pack downwhatever dusting of snow there is, making the sidewalk icy and moredifficult to shovel next time.
The plow often knocks into the piles of snow that flank my driveway,leaving a mess for me to clean up. And worst of all, it leaves not onebut two windrows that also have to be cleared away by me.
Windrows are the piles of slushy snow that street plows leave at theend of driveways. Now if the sidewalk plow would follow the streetplow and scoop out the windrows, I'd be a happy camper.
Then my tax dollars would actually save some of my backache.
I think the city should still clear downtown sidewalks and walksaround schools, churches, long-term care facilities or sidewalks thatrun along vacant properties. But able-bodied homeowners should be ableto shovel their sidewalk. They're already doing their driveway.
That said, I hope my kind-hearted neighbours with plows, who sometimesdig out my windrows and sidewalks, don't start their own do not plowlists.
Maybe it's time I started a thank you card list. Perhaps a gift list,too.
Mercury reporter Joanne Shuttleworth can be reached email@example.com. Her column appears alternate Mondays.
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