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Daily News Blog

29
Jan

Group Says Broader Biological Evaluation of Rodenticides Needed to Protect Endangered Species

Secondary poisoning through predation of poisoned prey by rodenticides a primary concern of draft biological evaluation by EPA.

(Beyond Pesticides, January 29, 2024) With its draft Biological Evaluation of the impacts of rodenticides open for public comment until February 13, advocates are warning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its inadequate review is unconscionable in view of the looming biodiversity collapse. “This is not a moment for business as usual and weak reviews that lead to wholly inadequate regulations in a time of crisis,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Beyond Pesticides has tracked the scientific literature on the threat of rodenticides to wildlife, including an important study on contamination of eagles with rodenticides. Central to the concern about the deficiencies in EPA’s biological evaluation is the inadequate focus on secondary poisoning of listed endangered species fish and aquatic reptiles associated with predation of animals poisoned with rodenticides. In 2020, California passed the California Ecosystems Protection Act, AB 1788, which mostly bans on state lands rodenticides associated with secondary poisonings and initiated a broader review.

Tell EPA to improve its protection of endangered species from rodenticides.

In announcing the  2022 COP15 conference — the United Nation’s (UN’s) Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Development Programme set out the context for the summit: “Despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide, and this decline is projected to worsen with business-as-usual. The loss of biodiversity comes at a great cost for human well-being and the global economy.” Mr. Feldman said, “EPA either wants to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Unfortunately, this biological evaluation clearly exemplifies the agency is a part of the problem.” Meanwhile, the U.S. has never joined the world community in ratifying a national commitment to protecting biodiversity as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed by 196 nations. [In addition to commenting on the rodenticide biological evaluation, the public can continue to: Tell Congress to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity. Tell EPA to incorporate CBD targets into its programs.]

The rodenticide comments due by February 13, EPA’s Draft Biological Evaluation (BE), Effects Determinations, and Mitigation Strategy for Federally Listed and Proposed Endangered and Threatened Species and Designated and Proposed Critical Habitats for 11 Rodenticides, are an opportunity for the public to urge the agency to evaluate pesticide impacts on the environment more holistically under its statutory mandate. Beyond Pesticides has stated, “The BE is inadequate, both in its evaluation of risk and measures to mitigate risk and should not be used as the basis for registration of these rodenticides.” A detailed examination can be found in draft comments by Beyond Pesticides.

The rodenticide biological evaluation is to be conducted under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), one of the most effective conservation laws globally, protecting 1,662 species in the U.S. and 638 species elsewhere on Earth. Over the past five decades, the ESA has played a pivotal role in preventing these extinctions by safeguarding the most critically endangered species within biological communities. The ESA establishes a framework to categorize species as “endangered” or “threatened,” granting them specific protections, but the goal of the ESA is to address the broader issue of biodiversity loss by protecting habitats of species most at risk, or, as stated in the ESA, to “Provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species, and to take such steps as may be appropriate to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth in subsection (a) of this section.”

Under the ESA, EPA is required to consult with relevant agencies when registering chemicals to assess their impact on endangered species. Unfortunately, according to advocates, EPA has consistently fallen short in fulfilling this statutory obligation, as highlighted over years of reporting by Beyond Pesticides. EPA admits that its Pesticide Program “has been unable to keep pace with its ESA workload, resulting not only in inadequate protections for listed species but also litigation against the Agency.”

Pesticide use is a major cause of declining biodiversity, which is manifested in extinctions, endangered species, and species vulnerable to environmental disturbances—including climate change, habitat fragmentation, and toxic chemicals. If EPA is serious about protecting biodiversity, it must look first to the ways it has created the crisis in the first place.

In this BE, EPA predicts the potential likelihood of future jeopardy for only 73 of the 136 species it judged may be affected and the potential likelihood of future adverse modification for only four of the 38 “likely to be adversely affected” critical habitats. It predicted potential jeopardy for 24 mammal species for bait station use, 31 for burrow use, and 35 for broadcast applications. For birds, EPA predicts jeopardy for six species from bait station use, one for burrow use, and 30 for broadcast applications. For reptiles, EPA predicts jeopardy for just four species from bait station use, and just one species for broadcast applications. EPA made “no effect” determinations for all aquatic and terrestrial plants, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and aquatic vertebrates for which no direct effects or effects on prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal are expected from the use of the 11 rodenticides.

Tell EPA to improve its protection of endangered species from rodenticides.

Despite data to the contrary, EPA has made no effect (NE) determinations for all species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) because no consequences relevant to direct toxicity of these species or their prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal are expected by EPA from the use of these rodenticides. These categorical NE determinations by EPA for all aquatic vertebrates, including those under the jurisdiction of NMFS, are not warranted. Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs), contrary to the agency’s assertions, can be transported to the aquatic environment (freshwater and marine). Recent detections in raw and treated wastewater, sewage sludge, estuarine sediments, suspended particulate matter, and liver tissue of sampled fish demonstrate that the aquatic environment experiences a greater risk of anticoagulant rodenticide exposure than previously thought. One AR, brodifacoum, revealed an enduring persistence (>3 years) in a marine environment after broadcast treatment in an island eradication project. Monitoring studies have also demonstrated that second-generation ARs bioaccumulate in fish liver under environmentally realistic conditions and exposure scenarios. Island eradication programs also provide for increased drift and runoff potential due to the broader treatment area and amplified application rates. Fish sampled after broadcast applications of AR bait pellets during monitored island eradication operations (Palmyra Atoll and Lehua Island, Hawaii) were found to have consumed treated pellets. The fish, as well as other animals that consumed the bait, were killed.

Secondary poisoning in listed endangered species fish and aquatic reptiles is similarly possible from ingesting poisoned animals. Some invertebrates (e.g., insects, mollusks, and annelid worms) can consume poisoned baits and transfer the poison via food web to various susceptible vertebrates. Target and nontarget small mammals that have consumed poisoned baits will not always stay sedentary or concealed—many roam openly and often seek water. Those who become moribund or die in sewers, culverts, drainage ditches, or similar conduits can be swept into riparian zones or directly into water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes, tidal basins, estuaries) where they can be consumed by aquatic predators and scavengers. Encounter and ingestion of a poisoned and sickened rodent could prove fatal to aquatic vertebrate species. Mice have been reported to be consumed by listed species such as alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, and steelhead trout. These four listed species should be considered “may be affected” and their potential jeopardy considered by the Services (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services-USFWS and NMFS) in the required formal consultation. Additionally, marine mammals may be at serious risk from existing and planned island eradication projects and should be considered in a revised BE.

As discussed above, fish are exposed through primary routes in the consumption of bait pellets/grains that may be washed or transported into waters. They may also consume invertebrates or small mammals that have ingested poisoned baits and moved into their habitat. However, EPA lacks dietary toxicity data for fish and cannot confidently assess the extent of risk from this route of exposure in these aquatic vertebrates. EPA must seek additional toxicity data from registrants to better evaluate rodenticide toxicity from dietary exposures of fish. In addition to lacking dietary toxicity data for rodenticides, the agency also lacks reproduction and chronic (life cycle) toxicity data on aquatic vertebrates.

In conclusion, the draft BE is unsatisfactory and must be revised before proceeding to formal ESA §7(a)(2) consultations with the Services (Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service). The flawed draft BE erroneously disregards potential aquatic exposure and fails to identify additional listed species (alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout) that may be adversely affected. Aquatic animals, including fish are exposed, as previously discussed, through primary routes in the consumption of bait pellets/grains that may be washed or transported into waters from broadcast application or improperly disposed bait stations. Secondary routes are also possible from consuming invertebrates or small mammals that have ingested poisoned bait and moved into their habitat. However, EPA lacks dietary toxicity data for fish and cannot confidently assess the extent of risk from this route of exposure.

EPA must seek additional toxicity data from registrants to better evaluate rodenticide toxicity from dietary exposures of fish. In addition to lacking dietary toxicity data for rodenticides, the agency also lacks reproduction and chronic (life cycle) toxicity data on aquatic vertebrates. Since this draft BE is intended to be a comprehensive review and analysis of all currently registered uses of 11 rodenticides, the island eradication programs special use labels should also be considered in the rodenticide BE and not solely dependent on expected USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) ESA consultations.

Source document: Document ID EPA-HQ-OPP-2023-0567-0001.

Tell EPA to improve its protection of endangered species from rodenticides.

Comment to EPA

The Draft Biological Evaluation (BE) is inadequate and should not be used to support the registration of the 11 rodenticides under review. Pesticide use is a major cause of declining biodiversity, which is manifested in extinctions, endangered species, and species vulnerable to environmental disturbances—including climate change, habitat fragmentation, and toxic chemicals. EPA must reverse these trends.

The BE predicts the potential likelihood of future jeopardy for only 73 of the 136 species that “may be affected” and the potential likelihood of future adverse modification for only 4 of the 38 “likely to be adversely affected” critical habitats. EPA made “no effect” determinations for all aquatic and terrestrial plants, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and aquatic vertebrates for which it expects no direct effects or effects on prey, pollination, habitat, or dispersal from the use of the 11 rodenticides.

EPA made “no effect” (NE) determinations for species under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These categorical NE determinations by EPA for all aquatic vertebrates are not warranted. Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) can be transported to freshwater and marine environments—as shown by recent detections in raw and treated wastewater, sewage sludge, estuarine sediments, suspended particulate matter, and liver tissue of fish. One AR, brodifacoum, persisted at least 3 years in a marine environment after broadcast treatment in an island eradication project (Palmyra Atoll and Lehua Island, Hawaii). Studies also show that second-generation ARs bioaccumulate in fish liver. Island eradication programs provide increased drift and runoff potential due to the broad treatment area and high application rates. Fish sampled after broadcast applications of AR bait pellets during monitored island eradication operations were found to have consumed treated pellets. The fish and other animals that consumed the bait were killed.

Secondary poisoning in listed endangered species aquatic species may occur by ingesting poisoned animals. Invertebrates such as insects, mollusks, and annelid worms can consume poisoned baits and transfer the poison via food web to susceptible vertebrates who may end up in water bodies where they can be consumed by aquatic predators and scavengers. Ingestion of a poisoned and sickened rodent could prove fatal to aquatic vertebrates. Mice are consumed by listed species such as alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, and steelhead trout. These four listed species should be “may be affected” and their potential jeopardy considered by the Services (USFWS and NMFS) in the required formal consultation. Additionally, marine mammals may be at serious risk from existing and planned island eradication projects and should be considered in a revised BE.

In conclusion, the draft BE is flawed and must be revised before proceeding to formal consultations with the Services. The draft BE erroneously disregards potential aquatic exposure and fails to identify additional listed species (alligator snapping turtle, bull trout, Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout) as well as marine mammals that may be adversely affected. Aquatic animals are exposed through primary routes and secondary routes. EPA must seek additional data from registrants on dietary and chronic toxicity to aquatic vertebrates, which it currently lacks. Since this draft BE is intended to be a comprehensive review and analysis of all currently registered uses of 11 rodenticides, the island eradication programs special use labels should also be considered in the rodenticide BE and not wait on expected APHIS consultations.

Thank you for considering these comments.

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One Response to “Group Says Broader Biological Evaluation of Rodenticides Needed to Protect Endangered Species”

  1. 1
    Dr. Amy Eisenberg Says:

    APTIVE PEST CONTROL COMPANY IS GOING DOOR TO DOOR IN ORO VALLEY PROMOTING THEIR DEADLY POISON CLAIMING IT IS SAFE. WE DO NOT WANT THEM SOLICITING. Stewardship and the Preservation of Life in the Tohono O’odham Haki:dag

    Amy Eisenberg, Ph.D.
    Center for World Indigenous Studies Associate Scholar
    Jane Goodall Institute grantee for Stewardship and the Preservation of Life
    The University of Arizona
    [email protected]

    Photography by John Amato, RN
    JP Imaging and Technical Editing
    [email protected]

    Honorable Chair of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Verlon Jose kindly asks us all to respect every twig and rock in their sacred homeland. We make every effort to live by this. The Tohono O’odham ancestors still dwell in these holy places and the native creatures are the relatives of the Tohono O’odham people.

    I am a Jane Goodall Institute two-time grantee for Stewardship and the Preservation of Life with the privilege and honor of living and working in the Tohono O’odham Haki:dag – the sacred homeland of the Tohono O’odham Nation in occupied Tucson and Babad Du’ag – the Catalina Mountains of the Sonoran Desert.

    I teach Stewardship and Impacts to Native Species in the Tohono O’odham homeland at the University of Arizona. John Amato, RN and I became Arizona Site Stewards in 2016 (Figure 1) (Figure 2) for respecting, protecting and preserving Tohono O’odham and other Native American ancestral sacred sites in Babad Du’ag of the Coronado National Forest, the largest and most biodiverse national forest in the US. It is unfortunate and inappropriate that this extraordinary national forest is named for a conquistador who committed atrocities against the First Peoples of this Southwest region.

    We report vandalism (Eisenberg and Amato 2017 (https://intercontinentalcry.org/tohono-oodham-sunburst-petroglyph-vandalized-hakidag/) of Native American cultural resources and protect the natural heritage of these holy places by removing invasive plants that harm and kill Ha꞉ṣañ – Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro and other beloved native species.

    Lamentably, some Homo sapiens do not respect nature. According to the U.S. Constitution and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we have the right to a clean, healthy and safe environment that sustains all life. A healthy environment supports healthy beings rather than a degraded one. We are dedicated to giving voice to our Pachamama and preserving the Rights of Mother Earth and her beloved creatures.

    Sadly, I found a young quail (Figure 3) with severe neurological damage who was dragging her leg near to where a deeply misguided pest control company – Arizona Pest Control unlawfully placed deadly difethialone anticoagulant poison rodenticide traps (Figure 4) in our 90-acre wildlife corridor without authorization or permission. I tried to feed and hydrate her and made a vegetative nest to prop her up as she was not able to stand or sit properly. I then turned her over to Arizona Bird Rescue. Their veterinarians could not save her…

    I contacted USDA about the numerous poison rodent traps in our wildlife corridor and were told to contact the Arizona Department of Agriculture, which is supposedly “the pesticide regulatory agency in Arizona”. *Both Arizona Department of Agriculture and EPA would not address the improper and illegal placement of deadly difethialone rodenticide traps in our wildlife corridor by the pest control company, Arizona Pest Control (Figure 5) and the residents who do not want rodenticides in their backyard to possibly poison their children, pets and wildlife. All of these traps were placed unlawfully in our wildlife corridor and not in the private property of residents with whom the pest control company has contracts endangering children, pets and wildlife (Figure 6) (Figure 7).

    We brought out Arizona Department of Agriculture “inspectors” because of the numerous poison rodent traps and insect traps in our wildlife corridor, and they were not helpful. They failed to document the traps that we did encounter together and did not conduct a thorough inspection. I contacted Governor Hobbs, who is an environmental attorney and opened casework with senators and congressional representatives (Figure 8) as I reached out to numerous agencies for assistance to no avail… Arizona Department of Agriculture and EPA stated, “The label is law” and the pest control company followed the label!” I reported Arizona Pest Control to the Better Business Bureau and this corporation threatened to sue me for defamation. Truth begets justice. California prohibits the use of deadly difethialone rodenticide as stated on the label.

    I spoke with Luke Thompson from Arizona Game and Fish. He said that in Arizona one can target native rodents! Therefore, THE LABEL IS NOT LAW because native rodents are not on the label! This is disgraceful and preposterous. Where is it written into law that one can poison native species? I await their response to this pressing question. I contacted The Fish and Wildlife Service about the rare, endangered and threatened rodents in Arizona. Some are teetering on the brink of extinction such as the Mesquite Mouse, the New Mexico Jumping Mouse and Mount Graham Red Squirrel.

    On page 19 of Arizona Revised Statutes Title 3 – Agriculture Chapter 20 – Pest Management Division (Figure 9) it states: 4. Applying pesticides in a manner that is inconsistent with the label and labeling of the pesticide *or that may cause harm to the public, the environment or nontarget animals such as the unlawful placement of Arizona Pest Control difethialone rodenticide traps in our Catalina Shadows Common Area – 90-acre wildlife corridor without authorization or permission.

    *Children, pets and wildlife are endangered by the unlawful and irresponsible placement of multiple deadly difethialone rodenticide rodent traps in our Catalina Shadows Common Area – 90-acre wildlife corridor by Arizona Pest Control, without authorization or permission. This violates our U.S. Constitutional rights to a clean, healthy and safe environment.

    Veterinarian Dr. John Mundahl, DVM stated that difethialone should be taken off the market because there is no antidote.

    We seek to ban all deadly anticoagulant rodenticides including difethialone as Arizona Pest Control is not applying it responsibly. It has no place in a wildlife corridor – our HOA Common Area where multiple poison traps were set unlawfully. We sincerely hope we can implement proactive, positive change in Arizona and the nation for the preservation of life. Mother Earth and her beloved ones are in crisis in this extreme environment and we must give our all and do our very best. There are indeed safe and effective alternatives to these deadly anticoagulant rodenticides that poison children, pets, wildlife and ecosystems.

    Elid g Jewed – Respect the Earth

    “We are given life that we may enhance life.” – Gemara
    “We cannot live on if the natural world dies.” – Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace

    Acknowledgements
    There are no conflicts of interest in the preparation and submission of this manuscript.

    References
    Eisenberg, Amy and John Amato. 2017. Sunburst Petroglyph Vandalized in the Tohono O’odham Haki:dag. Intercontinental Cry. https://intercontinentalcry.org/tohono-oodham-sunburst-petroglyph-vandalized-hakidag/ 13 December 2017.

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