Part of your family and your home are your pets. How safe are the flea and tick products you use on your pets? In an unprecedented move, the EPA and a major pet care company announced an agreement requiring the company to phase out and ultimately discontinue certain tick and flea products. There are about five products for cats and kittens that appear to be implicated by this announcement.

In the short-term, the agreement requires re-labeling of the products. This new labeling will indicate that the products should not be used for the most vulnerable animals: cats and kittens that weigh under 6 pounds, cats that are older than 13 years and kittens that are less than five months old.

In addition, production of these products will end by September 30, 2005 and the company will no longer distribute any of the products after December 31, 2005.

According to the EPA, cat and kitten owners need to look for alternative products for accomplishing tick and flea care.

I don't understand why the distribution will continue through December? If we know that these products are adversely affecting certain cats and kittens, and if the problem is so pronounced that the products need to be removed from the marketplace, why is it logical to wait until December to cease distribution?

Perhaps the thinking is that a good-faith effort has been made -- so that if a few more animals die between now and the end of the year, that's the price of progress. Or perhaps now that the word is out these vulnerable cats and kittens may read the labels themselves and save their own lives.

It seems to me that these products should never have been placed in the marketplace. While this is only my opinion, I note that according to published reports, thousands of complaints were made to the EPA relating to the health effects of these products. They range from hair loss, to seizures, to even death.

Apparently, the active ingredient affects the nervous system of the flea and a tick. This incapacitates the ticks and fleas, and they no longer represent a risk to your cat or kitten.

But as I've told you before, pesticides don't do a terribly good job of distinguishing pests from good things. That was the problem here, apparently, and it seems that's why a lot of cats and kittens were injured by these products.

How could there have been thousands of complaints made to the EPA before this product was discontinued. By the way, the announcement suggests that this is voluntary. But I suspect the company would have been sued by the government if the company did not so volunteer.

I have another question as well. The EPA indicates that the most vulnerable pets are older cats and younger kittens. Light weight pets are also vulnerable. Knowing this, who would use these products on any cats or kittens? I don’t believe that they can kill really young and really old felines, but don’t impact those in the middle at all. It is not a logical conclusion to me.

I would like to know how these products remained in the marketplace for so long. How was it that they were approved for sale in the first place? What tests were undertaken before they were sold to millions of consumers.

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