The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on a petition to cancel the use of Seresto flea and tick collars that have been linked to more than 75,000 incidents of potential harm to pets and humans.
The EPA opened the 60-day public comment period on Monday, just three months after the nonprofit organization the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition asking the EPA to ban the collars. The public comment period closes Sept. 10.
The collars have come under increased scrutiny following a March story by Investigate Midwest and USA TODAY that found the collars have been linked to nearly 1,700 pet deaths and more than 75,000 incidents of harm. A Congressional subcommittee asked Elanco, the maker of the collars, to voluntarily recall the product, but Elanco declined.
[Read more: Popular flea collar linked to almost 1,700 pet deaths. The EPA has issued no warning.]
When asked for comment, the EPA pointed toward a post on its website announcing the comment period. The EPA said it “understands and shares the public’s concerns about reported incidents with Seresto pet collars.”
In April, the EPA wrote to Elanco and Bayer, the former owner of Seresto, “requesting additional information on incidents to better characterize the nature and scale of the incident reports. The information EPA requested was more extensive than standard reporting practices yield,” according to the EPA.
Elanco maintains that the collars are safe to use, citing its own investigations that there is no link between the collars and pet death. The company has said that the vast majority of reported incidents involve minor skin irritation.
“It’s critically important to remember these are based on raw data and cannot be used to draw conclusions on what may have actually caused the issues,” said Elanco spokeswoman Colleen Dekker in an emailed statement. “Further investigation and assessment are required to determine cause, often a veterinary exam, laboratory diagnostics, or necropsy, as appropriate. Data are continuously monitored for signals or trends. Thorough investigation of available data has shown no established link between exposure to the active ingredients in Seresto and pet deaths.”
Elanco has maintained that the collars are safe to use, citing its own investigations that there is no link between the collars and pet death. The company has said that the vast majority of reported incidents involve minor skin irritation.
The quick action in opening the public comment period “is a good sign the EPA is taking this issue seriously,” said Hannah Connor, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Too many people and pets have suffered for too long,” she said. “This is going to give them an opportunity to add their voices to the mix.”
Often, the EPA does not take action on legal petitions for years and faces “unreasonable delay” lawsuits. In the case of two other pet products that were alleged to have caused harm, the EPA has taken an average of 10 years to resolve legal petitions.
The April petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which the EPA is required to respond to, pointed out potential flaws in the EPA analysis of the two pesticides that are active ingredients in Seresto: imidacloprid and flumethrin.
UPDATE: This story was updated on July 14 with comments from the EPA and Elanco.
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