Call for Britain to ban popular pet flea collars over ‘poison threat’ discovered in France
By Nick Constable
PUBLISHED: 01:28, 13 May 2012 | UPDATED: 01:34, 13 May 2012
Flea collars banned in France over suspected human health risks are still being bought by thousands of British pet owners.
The collars were removed from French shops last month after experts decided the danger – particularly to children – was too great. Among the collars withdrawn are those containing dimpylate, also known as diazinon.
It is an organophosphate originally developed as a nerve gas during the Second World War.
Last night there were calls for Britain to follow suit and ban the collars for cats and dogs.
The French authorities suspect the toxic chemical impregnated in the collars may be absorbed through the skin of anyone cuddling or sleeping with their pets.
The chemical is contained in UK brands including Bob Martin Dog Flea Collar and Johnson’s Veterinary Flea Guard Collar For Cats.
Diazinon poisoning symptoms include headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, muscle-twitching, personality changes and loss of co-ordination.
In extreme cases it can lead to convulsions and even death, although there is no suggestion the flea collars would provide sufficient exposure to cause this.
The French are studying three cases in which side effects from collars have been linked to pet owners or their children, although they have not said what symptoms the people suffered or the severity of their reactions.
However, the UK regulator, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), is taking no action until European Commission scientists analyse and report back on the French claims.
The EC is expected to make a statement this week – the first official notification pet owners here will have received of the French ban.
According to a leading manufacturer, hundreds of thousands of the collars are sold each year.
Paula Boyden, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said Britain should ‘follow the same route as France’.
She said: ‘Most dog owners won’t be aware of this ban. We suggest they contact their vet if they have concerns. There are equally effective but safer products on the market. We don’t need to have these collars available.’
The RSPCA, which is watching developments, said: ‘We urge the Government to take all the appropriate measures to investigate this serious matter.’
Jean-Pierre Orand, the director of France’s ANMV veterinary medicines watchdog, has only explained the decision to ban the collars in a magazine interview.
He said officials ‘noted people’s change in behaviour towards their pets, marked by increasingly close and shared contact, especially that many children sleep with their cat or dog’.
While some countries had advised owners to avoid extended contact with pets wearing the collars, ‘we thought this was not compatible with people’s way of life’, he added.
UK manufacturers insist their collars are safe. Bob Martin’s managing director Savi Madan said: ‘We are aware of the ban on organophosphate flea collars in France and understand that the reason cited is children sleeping with their pets.
Our packaging contains clear instructions that people should not sleep with their pets if they are using a collar.
‘We are awaiting the full details on why these products have been taken off the shelves and expect the French authorities to produce a report shortly. If there is any new evidence that indicates a risk, we will remove our products.’
A spokesman for Johnson’s said that hundreds of thousands of flea collars containing diazinon were sold every year in the UK with no apparent problems.
‘All our products are authorised by the VMD for safety and efficacy,’ he said.
The VMD said: ‘We have no reports of any adverse reactions to flea collars among people. These products are considered safe and will stay on the UK market.
‘All we have is one country out of the whole of Europe taking this action and we really need to understand the basis for that.’