We love our pets. We love our children. The Natural Resources Defense Council fears certain flea collars contain pesticides that are putting both pets and children at risk.
"We shouldn't see pets getting sick. We shouldn't see exposures that could harm kids. The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to prevent these types of exposures," said Miriam Rotkin Ellman from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Ellman says the collars contain either the pesticides Propoxur or Tetrachlorvinphos. She says both pesticides can delay motor development and cause learning problems. Both, she fears, can easily get onto the hands and inside the mouths of children.
"They're hugging and loving their pet and they can get this pesticide on their hands, on their skin. Once it gets on their hand, it can get in their mouths," said Ellman.
Hartz which makes a product containing Tetrachlorvinphos told us by email that the product is "Registered with the EPA, meets current safety requirements and have been on the market safely for decades. We have confidence in the products and believe they are safe for their pets and family members."
Sergeants manufactures a flea collar containing Propoxur. It told us it products are "formulated to effectively control fleas and ticks by releasing active ingredients through a sustained-release mechanism. Sergeant's does provide a line of natural flea and tick control products under the sentry natural defense brand that are ideal for consumers seeking a natural alternative."
Former dog owner and retired pharmacist Randy Boris of San Francisco sympathizes with the NRDC lawsuit. He blames a different pesticide in a flea medication for the death of his dog Pierre. Boris told ABC7 News, "I had to wrap him up in a blanket and take him down to the veterinarian that prescribed the flea medication. He was in a blanket and convulsing and then he took him in for emergency work, but he died within 10 minutes."
The NRDC originally petitioned the environmental protection agency in 2007 and 2009 to ban the pesticides. The EPA has yet to respond to the petition and the NRDC wants the court to force the EPA to act. A spokesperson for the agency would only say the lawsuit is being reviewed. Most pet owners we talked with had no opinion on the matter. Others told us they didn't use flea collars, but one said he avoided pesticides altogether.
"My opinion is I think it's totally unnecessary. You don't need all these chemicals," said Stefan Lefco from San Francisco.
We also reached out to Wellmark, which manufactures a flea collar containing Propoxur. We were unsuccessful in reach them for comment.