EPA's Regulation of Flea and Tick Products
EPA is responsible for ensuring that all pesticides, including flea and tick products, sold in the United States do not cause unreasonable adverse effects when they are used according to label directions.
Prior to registering a flea and tick product, EPA conducts a human health risk assessment and an ecological risk assessment. EPA also reviews companion animal safety data to determine if the product has the potential to cause harm to the animal receiving the pesticide treatment for protection against the target pest.
EPA’s human health risk assessment evaluates the nature and probability of adverse health effects in people who may be exposed to a flea and tick product via skin, mouth, or air. EPA’s ecological risk assessment evaluates how a flea and tick product will move through and break down in the environment, and whether potential exposure to the product will result in unreasonable adverse effects to non-target birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals, and plants. If the product presents potential risks, EPA will implement measures to reduce risk.
Additionally, EPA reviews active ingredients in flea and tick product at least every 15 years to ensure they can carry out their intended function(s) without creating unreasonable adverse effects to human health or the environment, including pets. This process, known as registration review, may result in label changes to pet collar products to address any identified risks of concern. Whenever EPA determines there are urgent human or environmental risks from pesticide exposures that require prompt attention, the Agency will take appropriate regulatory action, regardless of the registration review status of the pesticide.
Modernizing the Regulation of Flea and Tick Products
Since the mid-1970s, EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have determined oversight for products topically administered to animals to treat fleas and ticks based on whether the chemical is systemically absorbed into the bloodstream (FDA oversight) or remains on the skin (EPA oversight). However, the agencies now understand that many of the topically administered products currently regulated by EPA do not remain on the skin and are absorbed into the bloodstream, highlighting challenges with the current approach and raising different safety concerns than originally anticipated.
In February 2023, EPA and FDA jointly released a whitepaper that outlines a proposal for an updated approach to clarify regulatory oversight of specific products in alignment with each Agency’s expertise. The whitepaper includes a process for transferring oversight of flea and tick pet products from EPA to FDA. An updated approach clarifying oversight over new and existing products would promote the efficient use of each Agency’s expertise, improve regulatory clarity, and better protect human, animal, and environmental health. Learn more.