• U.S.

Medicine: Flea Market

2 minute read

Chemical-impregnated collars are supposed to keep dogs and cats free of fleas for up to three months. Flea-plagued people apparently believe the collars will do the same for them. In both California and New York, pet store owners report a booming business in the collars and suspect that some are ending up on the necks, ankles or wrists of pet owners rather than on their pets. Says James Umberfield, manager of San Francisco’s House of Pets: “One woman came in here with big red spots all over her legs and said she was buying a collar for herself because her apartment was infested with fleas.”

Fleas may soon be the least of her problems. Recent studies suggest that the pesticides in the collars may be hazardous to both animals and people. In fact, the packages carry warnings that children should not be closely exposed to pets wearing the collars. Veterinarians who put flea collars on 50 cats at Washington State University reported that 21 of the animals developed ataxia-depression—a nervous disorder characterized by listlessness, loss of appetite and lack of coordination; four of the animals died. The Environmental Protection Agency warns that flea-collar poisoning may produce dizziness, nausea and skin rashes in humans. The pesky insects generally prefer the fur of pets, but can be found on human bodies. Fleas can also live in carpets and furniture, emerging to bite householders. Thus, suggest health officials, people who have flea problems should use a vacuum cleaner, carefully empty the contents into a plastic bag and then close it tightly, lest they recycle the fleas.

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