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Pesticides

Will EPA ban hazardous pesticide in pet collars?

Federal appeals court orders agency to make a decision within 90 days

by Britt E. Erickson
April 24, 2020

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A years-long battle between the US Environmental Protection Agency and the environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) over an organophosphate insecticide used in pet collars to control fleas and ticks may soon come to an end. A federal appeals court ordered the EPA on April 22 to respond to the NRDC’s petition to ban the neurotoxic pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) in household pet products within 90 days.

The NRDC first filed the petition in 2009. The EPA denied it in 2014, claiming that TCVP in pet products does not pose a risk to human health. The NRDC appealed the decision, and as part of that lawsuit the EPA agreed to conduct another human health risk assessment. In that evaluation, the EPA concluded that exposure to TCVP may harm the developing brains of children.

During the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA said it would soon propose a rule to require pesticide makers to reduce human exposure to TCVP in pet products.

The Trump administration did not follow through, though. In 2019 the NRDC sued the agency again, demanding that it act on the 2009 petition to ban TCVP in pet products.

In its ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit called the EPA’s foot dragging on a critical public health matter “nothing short of egregious.” The agency has repeatedly “kicked the can down the road and betrayed its prior assurances of timely action, even as it has acknowledged that the pesticide poses widespread, serious risks to the neurodevelopmental health of children,” the court wrote.

“This is an important victory—and one for which we’ve been fighting for more than a decade,” Mae Wu, senior director of the NRDC’s health and food program, says in a statement.

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