(Beyond Pesticides, August 9, 2012) On Monday, Beyond Pesticides joined with 23 public health and environmental advocacy groups to send a letter to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging it to follow through with its original plan to cancel the sale of most toxic rat poisons to residential consumers. In 2008, after over a decade of these products being on the market and widely available to consumers, EPA gave manufactures three years to comply with new risk mitigation requirements for rat poisons. However, the companies Reckitt Benckiser, Liphatech, and Spectrum Brands, producers of d-Con, Rid-a-Rat, and Hot Shot each decided to flout EPA requirements and ignore compliance with the regulations. The letter urges EPA to follow through with its ”˜Notice of Intent to Cancel’. It also instructs the agency to issue an order for emergency suspension of these products under FIFRA section 6(c), based on evidence of imminent hazard to human health and to wildlife.
While the cancellation of these products will better safeguard the health of children, pets, and wildlife, EPA’s risk mitigation requirements do not go far enough to ensure protections for vulnerable populations. Children are particularly at risk for exposure because young children sometimes put bait pellets, easily accessible because they are usually positioned on floors, in their mouths. The measures necessitate the use of sealed bait stations for rodenticides containing the chemicals brodifacoum, bromadiolone, bromethalin, chlorophacinone, cholecalciferol, difenacoum, difethialone, diphacinone, warfarin, and zinc phosphide. They also disallow the use of loose bait, such as pellets, in order to prevent children and pets from exposure to the poison. However, the requirements still allow the use of these highly toxic rodenticides by pest control operators. This means residential exposures will continue, albeit at slightly lower levels. The American Association of Poison Control Centers annually receives between 12,000 and 15,000 reports of children under the age of six being exposed to these types of products. The poisons are also still allowed for use in conventional agriculture, though outdoor uses will require the use of bait stations.
A recent study published in PLoS One reveals the dangers rodenticides can cause to predators when they feed upon poisoned mice and rats. The study found instances of fisher cats dying as a direct result of eating poisoned rodents. Rats and mice which ingest the poison do not die right away. Instead they become lethargic and disoriented, making them easy prey for predator species. When a predator feeds on a poisoned rat or mouse, the poison bioaccumulates in the animal’s body. High concentrations of the chemical can be directly or indirectly fatal; sublethal effects can slow down the animal and make it vulnerable to other predators or automobiles when crossing the road. “We’re often killing some of the animals that would be doing rodent control for us: raptors, coyotes, bobcats,” said Stella McMillin of the California Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory in an article in The Huffington Post.
Beyond Pesticides strongly encourages consumers not to use poisons as a means to control mice and rats. We believe that defined integrated pest management (IPM) practices are vital tools that aid in the rediscovery of non-toxic methods to control rodents and help facilitate the transition toward a pesticide-free (and healthier) world. IPM, as defined by Beyond Pesticides, is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control that offers the opportunity to eliminate the use of toxic pesticides, and to minimize exposure to any products that are used. A well-defined IPM plan does this by utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems. Sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and biological control, and pest population monitoring are some IPM methods that can be undertaken to control rodents.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.