There is a startling report in the Times newspaper today in which the journalist (Nadeem Badshah) reports that chemicals from flea treatments for pets are polluting streams and rivers based on a new study. We know how toxic these insecticides are and how they can poison cats and dog if misused but it had not occurred to me that they may find their way into streams and rivers and poison the animals and insects that live in and on these waterways.
High levels of the chemical imidacloprid have been found in Scotland in the Cairngorms and in the Great Ouse in Bedfordshire. The study obviously relates to the UK but I would have thought that it would stimulate a discussion in America on the possibility of doing a similar study there. In the UK there are 68 registered veterinary products to treat fleas on dogs and cats (and rabbits and ferrets). The chemical concerned in this instance is a neonicotinoid insecticide. It not only kills cat fleas but insects that live or feed near water such as mayflies and it damages the health of fish and birds.
The study was carried out by a charity, Buglife. In three bodies of water: the Tame in Manchester, Whyke Beck in Leeds and Summerhill Stream in Kent, neonicotinoids exceeded chronic pollution limits as a result of the use of imidacloprid on cats and dogs and other pets.
It appears that this chemical finds its way into the watercourses when, for example dogs, race into rivers and streams when it is washed off their coats or when cat and dog bedding is washed in a washing machine and the wastewater gets washed into drains and then watercourses. The pollutant enters the sewage system and storm drains and thence watercourses. In addition the chemical can be excreted after absorption through the skin.
The study appears to refer to the single chemical mentioned but there is a bewildering array of insecticides and toxins produced by manufacturers to kill fleas and other parasites. It seems that the government in the UK – and I would suggest also in the USA – needs to look at this and I would hope that they would ban the use of these toxins because the authorities need to monitor more carefully the impact on the countryside from their use. They find their way back into nature where they kill, pollute and damage the environment. People are gradually becoming more aware of environmental pollution and its consequences.
Buglife submitted its findings to the Environment Agency in the UK which is also conducting a study. Michael Gove the Environment Secretary is, I believe, aware of this very serious form of environmental pollution. He is a bold decision maker. I hope he takes the necessary steps.
P.S. Neonicotinoid insecticide kills our precious pollinating bees too.