Are Dog Flea Collars Dangerous to Humans?

Flea collars are dangerous for both 2-legged and 4-legged members of the family.
i Children and husky dog image by Marzanna Syncerz from

Fleas are pesky critters, and you want to keep them off of your dog. But some of the cheapest products -- flea collars -- may be dangerous for your dog and your family. In the end, a flea collar may do more harm that good.

Ingredients in Flea Collars

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The pesticides in flea collars are from a group of chemicals called organophospates. These compounds are made by combining alcohol and phosporic acid. Organophospates form the basis of not only many pesticide and agricultural products, but also are the building blocks of nerve gas and other biological weapons. Flea collars rely on organophospates to compromise the central nervous system of fleas, but research has shown exposure to these ingredients is also dangerous to humans and pets. Research is so conclusive that France has banned the use of organophospates in flea collars.

Tetrachlorvinphos Risks

One of the most common ingredients in flea collars is tetrachlorvinphos. This pesticide affects the central nervous system in pets and humans. Children are especially susceptible, as their ability to rid their body of the chemicals is less efficient than that of adults. Tetrachlorvinphos is also listed as a potential carninogen for humans by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Propoxur Risks

Propoxur is the second common ingredient in flea collars that is extremely dangerous to humans. It causes neurological problems and is listed by the EPA as a known carcinogen. Based on its own research regarding the dangers of propoxur, the Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a petition to the EPA in 2011 asking for the approval of the use of propoxur in pet collars to be revoked.

Exposure Risks

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Flea-collar manufacturers include warnings on the products to avoid exposure and to wash your hands thoroughly after handling the collars. Research has shown these measures are not enough to limit exposure. Studies have shown that, after just three days, residue from the collars on pet fur exceeded acceptable EPA exposure levels for children. Even after two weeks, 75 percent of pets still have unsafe levels of toxins. Propoxur can also contaminate indoor air quality, increasing risks even for household members who never touch the collar or pet.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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