Flea and tick infestations have long posed a problem for pet owners, leading to significant research into developing a highly effective insecticide that has low potential human toxicity. This led to the development of the broad spectrum insecticide fipronil. Fipronil is used for the control of fleas, ticks, ants, cockroaches and many other insects. Common sources for potential human exposure include spot pet preventive treatments, termite control products and insect bait products.
Despite widespread use, there are only a few reports of possible human toxicity from exposure to fipronil. Its wide margin of safety in humans is thought to be due to the fact that the target of fipronil is found only in insects and not in mammals. A seven-year review of exposures reported in 11 states showed that the majority of people exposed had mild temporary symptoms including headache, dizziness and tingling in the extremities. Other temporary symptoms reported after exposure included nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and skin irritation. Even with large exposures or intentional ingestions, the risk for toxicity appears to be low as supported by a published report of an accidental ingestion of ant bait with no development of any toxicity.
In summary, when used as directed on package labeling, the risk of human toxicity from exposure to fipronil in household pet flea and tick products is exceedingly low. Even with large exposures, effects are likely to be mild and temporary. To date, no long-term toxic effects have been reported in humans exposed to fipronil.
- Lee, Soo-Jeong, Prakash Mulay, Brienne Diebolt-Brown, Michelle J. Lackovic, Louise N. Mehler, John Beckman, Justin Waltz, Joanne B. Prado, Yvette A. Mitchell, Sheila A. Higgins, Abby Schwartz, and Geoffrey M. Calvert. "Acute Illnesses Associated with Exposure to Fipronil—surveillance Data from 11 States in the United States, 2001–2007." Clinical Toxicology7 (2010): 737-44. Web.
- Fung*, Hin Tat, Kar Ki Chan, Wei Ming Ching, and Chak Wah Kam. "A Case of Accidental Ingestion of Ant Bait Containing Fipronil." Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology (2003): 245-48.
- "Fipronil." General Fact Sheet. National Pesticide Information Center, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.