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Concerns About Pyrethroids

A recent report points to an increase in pesticide-related incidents.

More than 1,600 pet related deaths related to spot-on treatments containing pyrethroids have been reported to the Environmental Protection Agency in the last five years – about double the number of reported fatalities tied to treatments without pyrethroids, according to a report by The Center for Public Integrity (Washington), a nonprofit reporting and research organization.

The CPI report, “perils of the New Pesticides,” is based on an analysis of data obtained from the EPA through the Freedom of Information Act.

The analysis also uncovered cases in which pets treated with pyrethroid-based products suffered from seizures, burns, drooling and vomiting.

It is important to note that, according to the CPI report, “the EPA cautions that it does not confirm the authenticity of these reports and most of the claims come from consumers and not trained toxicologists. The EPA uses the database to observe broad trends and to identify significant spikes in incidents for specific products and chemicals.”

Manufacturers and the EPA maintain that the products are only harmful when misapplied or the label directions are disregarded, the CPI said.

Pyrethrins, naturally occurring compounds with insecticidal properties derived from chrysanthemum flowers, are used in commonly available household products to control insects in the home, on pets and on people. Their synthetic counterparts, pyrethroids, have similar properties to pyrethrins, and were created as safer alternatives to an earlier class of pesticides (organophosphates), organically derived from nerve gas. Manufacturers’ use of pyrethroids has grown widely to include thousands of household products, ranging from bug repellents, anti-lice shampoos, pet shampoos and carpet cleaners.

To search the CPI’s online pesticide incident database, go to

In related news, the National Pesticide Information Center (Corvallis, Ore.) in November launched a website to allow veterinarians to report pesticide incidents involving animals.

Veterinarians can access the site, designed with input from the American Veterinarian Medical Association (Schaumburg, Ill.), through a link on the AVMA Web site. All submissions will be evaluated by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs.

Reprinted by permission from PET AGE, May 2009

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