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Assessing intermittent pesticide exposure from flea control collars containing the organophosphorus insecticide tetrachlorvinphos


Fleas are a persistent problem for pets that require implementation of control measures. Consequently, pesticide use by homeowners for flea control is common and may increase pesticide exposure for adults and children. Fifty-five pet dogs (23 in study 1; 22 in study 2) of different breeds and weights were treated with over-the-counter flea collars containing tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP). During study 1, fur of treated dogs was monitored for transferable TCVP residues using cotton gloves to pet the dogs during 5-min rubbings post-collar application. Plasma cholinesterase (ChE) activity was also measured in treated dogs. Average amounts of TCVP transferred from the fur of the neck (rubbing over the collar) and from the back to gloves at 3 days post-collar application were 23,700±2100 and 260±50 μg/glove, respectively. No inhibition of plasma ChE was observed. During study 2, transferable TCVP residues to cotton gloves were monitored during 5-min rubbings post-collar application. Transferable residues were also monitored on cotton tee shirts worn by children and in the first morning urine samples obtained from adults and children. Average amounts of TCVP transferred to gloves at 5 days post-collar application from the neck (over the collar) and from the back were 22,400±2900 and 80±20 μg/glove, respectively. Tee shirts worn by children on days 7–11 contained 1.8±0.8 μg TCVP/g shirt. No significant differences were observed between adults and children in urinary 2,4,5-trichloromandelic acid (TCMA) levels; however, all TCMA residues (adults and children) were significantly greater than pretreatment concentrations (α=0.05). The lack of ChE inhibition in dogs and the low acute toxicity level of TCVP (rat oral LD50 of 4–5 g/kg) strongly suggest that TCVP is rapidly detoxified and excreted and therefore poses a very low toxicological risk, despite these high residues.

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This research was supported by grants from the US Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant program (Grant nos. R825170 and R828017). Although the research described herein has been funded wholly or in part by the US Environmental Protection Agency STAR program, it has not been subjected to any governmental review and therefore does not reflect the views of the agency. No official endorsements should be inferred. We thank Ms. Nicole Holifield, Ms. Susan Waldrop, and Mr. Collin Zumwalt for residue analyses, as well as creatinine and cholinesterase assays, Drs. Carolyn Boyle and Sumalee Givaruangwawat for statistical advice, and Dr. Louis Ruzo and Curtis Hatton (PTRL West Inc.) for the analysis of urine for TCMA. This research was also supported by the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) and the College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University. This article is MAFES publication number J11104 and the Center of Environmental Health Sciences publication number 113.

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Correspondence to Janice E Chambers.

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Davis, M., Boone, J., Moran, J. et al. Assessing intermittent pesticide exposure from flea control collars containing the organophosphorus insecticide tetrachlorvinphos. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 18, 564–570 (2008).

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  • tetrachlorvinphos
  • human pesticide exposure
  • flea control
  • transferable residues


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