Lawmakers are threatening to ban a popular flea and tick collar that has been linked to almost 100,000 adverse reactions and nearly 2,500 pet deaths.
The warning about potentially pulling Seresto collars from the market came Wednesday from the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy following a hearing.
According to the subcommittee, an investigation determined that the Environmental Protection Agency knew of the dangers associated with Seresto's flea and tick collars for several years, but failed to take action to protect pets and their owners.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Il), chairman of the subcommittee, called on the EPA to investigate why complaints to its pesticide incident reporting system have not triggered any substantive action. He also requested that Elanco Animal Health, which manufactures Seresto, voluntarily recall the collars.
The Seresto flea and tick collar received EPA approval in 2012 and was introduced to the market in 2013. Since then, Bayer -- the original brand owner -- and Elanco -- which purchased the product in 2020 -- have sold nearly 34 million units. The collars provide eight months of flea and tick protection for dogs and cats for around $70.
The subcommittee launched its investigation into the collars in March 2021, following the publication of an investigative report which revealed that, as of June 2020, there had been more than 75,000 incidents and approximately 1,700 pet deaths linked to Seresto collars. Since then, the reported numbers have increased to more than 98,000 incidents and 2,500 pet deaths, the subcommittee said.
Elanco CEO Jeffrey Simmons testified at the hearing that the collar underwent more than 80 safety, toxicity and efficacy studies, all of which determined it was safe, CBS News reported.
"Adverse event reports aren't proof of causation," Simmons said. "We haven't found a single death due to the ingredients in the collar."
Krishnamoorthi pointed out that the collars are not sold in Canada because toxicology studies found it wasn't safe for pets or their owners, Gizmodo reported.
The hearing comes on the heels of an announcement by the EPA's Office of Inspector General that it is investigating whether the flea collars can still be used safely and whether the agency adhered to its legal requirements in its approval of the collars.
Documents released in response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity indicate that some EPA scientists expressed concerns about Seresto collars and even suggested they be removed from the market, but their opinions were "ignored for years," according to the Center.
"The heartbreaking tragedy is that behind each and every incident report is a story of very real pet suffering, from violent seizures, rashes and hair loss to gastrointestinal problems and even deaths," Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center, said in a statement. "You'd think the EPA would spring to action in response to these troubling reports. But these emails tell the story of an agency focused more on saving face than saving animals."