Recently I blogged about alternatives to DEET insect repellents for kids and adults. For those of you with pets that go outside, summer and fall are also flea season. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has some great online resources to help you avoid toxic flea-control chemicals.
Flea collars and sprays often contain chemicals that can harm pets and people, especially children. In particular, 2 very toxic chemicals, tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) and propoxur, are found in some flea collars. Both of these chemicals are found in products marketed for cats and dogs. Both of them can poison pets and may cause long-term health consequences in humans. Propoxur is known to cause cancer in humans, and the EPA classifies TCVP as a possible human carcinogen. In addition, TCVP and other chemicals in the same family, known as organophosphates, are also suspected of being linked to neurodevelopmental problems in children.
To control fleas, the NRDC suggests starting with chemical-free methods and moving on to lower-risk chemical products only if necessary. Articles posted here and here contain suggestions about what you can do to approach the problem of flea-control.
If you find yourself needing a chemical flea or tick treatment, the NRDC has put together a very useful products directory. They checked the ingredients in more than one hundred flea and tick products and found that many contain toxic chemicals that can poison pets and harm people. The directory sorts the products into one of three potential risk levels. You can use it to look up a product you are considering or to search for a less toxic options. You can also print out this concise pocket guide to help you choose safer products.