Insects and birds hit by pet flea treatments, says study

Insects and birds hit by pet flea treatments, says study

Scientists have said that they believe chemicals used to treat fleas on cats and dogs could be causing significant damage to the insects that live in rivers and the fish and birds that eat them.

The Guardian newspaper reported recently on an English study in which researchers found fipronil in 99 per cent of 20 samples that they took from rivers. Fipronil and imidacloprid, which was also found, have been banned from on-farm use here for many years.

The findings were attributed to the use of flea treatments on the dogs that regularly swim in the rivers.

Scientists have now called for new regulations aimed at discouraging the blanket use of flea treatments which are currently approved without any investigation of their likely environmental impact.

Professor Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, who was part of the study, said that he ‘couldn’t quite believe’ that the pesticides were so prevalent, adding that rivers were now ‘routinely and chronically contaminated’ with both chemicals.

‘The problem is that these chemicals are so potent,’ added the professor. ‘We would expect them to be having significant impacts on insect life in rivers.’

He also revealed that one flea treatment given to a medium-sized dog would contain enough imidacloprid to kill 60 million bees.

The study, published in the journal, Science of the Total Environment, includes almost 4000 analyses on samples from 20 English rivers between 2016 and 2018.

Fipronil was banned from use as a farm insecticide in 2017 and imidacloprid in 2018.

When dogs and cats are washed, fipronil gets flushed into the sewerage system. The problem is also exacerbated when dogs go swimming in rivers.

Fipronil is to be found in 66 licensed veterinary product and imidacloprid in 21, many of which can be obtained without a prescription.

‘Clearly something has gone wrong, There isn’t a regulatory process for this particular risk and clearly, there needs to be,’ said professor Dave Goulson.