According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Americans own an estimated 77.5 million dogs and 93.6 million cats. Last year, Americans spent over $45 billion dollars on their pets. Roughly $10 million of that figure was spent on pet-care products.

People love their pets and often pamper and care for them just as they would a child. And as a treasured member of the family, pet owners often assume the products they purchase are government regulated and safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Many pet-care products - like shampoos and flea and tick collars - contain hazardous cancer-causing chemicals that can make our four-legged friends very sick and can also be a health risk to people, especially young children.

Like our children, pets are far more vulnerable to chemical exposures than most of us realize. Most people don't realize that when they use flea and tick pet-care products, they are exposing their pets to chemicals designed to poison and kill the pests. At the same time, these same products are also poisoning your beloved pet.

Flea collars are a major source of dangerous chemicals for both your pets and your children. Tetrachlovinphos, an organophosphate used in some flea collars, is a carcinogenic neurotoxin. Carbamate insecticide, or propoxur, is another toxic chemical found in flea collars. When applied, pets absorb these toxic chemicals through their skin, when breathing, and when they groom themselves.

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found the amount of chemical residue in some flea collars to be 1,000 times higher than acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Symptoms of pesticide toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, breathing problems and paralysis.

Parents need to be aware that when children play and sleep with their pets they are exposed to the same potentially harmful chemicals. Toddlers and small children are particularly vulnerable to toxic residue exposures because they generally play on the floor where their pets lay and because of their natural tendency to put their hands in their mouth following interaction with their pets. Research has suggested children, particularly under age five, who grow up with flea collar wearing dogs or cats have a higher incidence of brain cancers.

As is often the case, the health hazards caused by commonly used pet-care products can be prevented.

You can also prevent fleas and protect your pet - and children - from toxic pet-care chemicals by taking a few simple steps.

  • Wash your pet on a regularly with nontoxic shampoo.
  • Vacuum your home frequently and thoroughly during flea season to get rid of any eggs.
  • Wash you pet's bedding as often as you do your own.
  • Add a little brewer's yeast and garlic to your pet's diet.

If you still want to use a flea collar, there are several companies that make non-toxic plant-and-essential-oil-based collars that will ward off fleas and ticks without poisoning your pet... or your children.

Resources

www.onlynaturalpet.com

www.holisticfamilyandpets.com

To find out more about flea and tick collars and safer alternatives visit www.dienviro.com

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com

Deirdre Imus, Founder of the site devoted to environmental health, www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org, is President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health CenterĀ® at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com, and Fox Business Channel. Check out her website at www.ImusEnvironmentalHealth.org. Follow her on Twitter@TheGreenDirt and 'like' her Facebook page here.