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EPA Limits Most Toxic Rat Poisons in Homes But Still Leaves Wildlife at Risk


By: Center for Biological Diversity

Gray fox suffering from rodenticide poisoning. Photo courtesy of WildCare by Melanie Piazza.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2013 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today put new limitations on some of the most dangerous rat poisons to protect families, but loopholes still leave wildlife at risk. Each year up to 10,000 children are accidentally exposed to rat poison in their homes. Today's decision allows continued use of the same poisons in large quantities, for agricultural and other purposes, that result in the poisonings of thousands of animals every year, including threatened and endangered species like the San Joaquin kit fox and northern spotted owl.

"I'm very relieved the EPA has taken this significant step to protect our families from accidental poisonings," said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "But other steps are needed. Wildlife, too, need protection from these cruel, indiscriminate and deadly toxins. It's time we get them out of the wild."

Today's EPA order targets consumer products used in homes that do not contain tamper-resistant packaging such as loose baits, pastes or blocks. However, the order does not ban the worst poisons themselves. Super-toxic poisons — called second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides — will still be available for widespread use if they are purchased in bulk at agricultural supply stores, used by professionally licensed applicators or are used outdoors in tamper-resistant packaging.

The order comes after years of opposition from rat-poison manufacturers. The makers of d-CON rat poison — Reckitt Benckiser — have continually fought the EPA to limit tamper-resistant packaging and keep super-toxic rat poisons on the shelves.

"We are thrilled that EPA is taking measures to protect children and pets and that more people are choosing to use safer methods and simple snap traps to control rats," says Lisa Owens Viani of the grassroots group Raptors Are The Solution. "However, anticoagulant poisons are still widespread in the bait boxes we see everywhere, and that concerns us. Hawks, owls and other wildlife are still dying from eating rodents poisoned by these boxes."

Harm to wildlife from rodenticide poisoning is widespread, especially from "super-toxic," second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. Studies have documented second-generation anticoagulants in more than 70 percent of wildlife tested. Wildlife poisonings and deaths have been documented in eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, bobcats, mountain lions and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes.

"There's no reason to leave the worst of the worst poisons on the market," said Evans. "There are safe, cost-effective options on the shelves today that don't indiscriminately kill wildlife."

Safe alternatives exist to address rodent outbreaks in homes and rural areas. Effective measures include rodent-proofing of homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes to encourage natural predation; and utilizing traps that don't involve these highly toxic chemicals.

Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants — including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum — are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate at many times the lethal dose in their tissues. Predators or scavengers like hawks, owls, foxes and mountain lions that feed on poisoned rodents are then also poisoned. Even in remote areas, research has revealed unacceptably high levels of poison in an endangered forest predator, the Pacific fisher: 75 percent of fishers tested showed rodenticide contamination.

The EPA's action to restrict some poisons was initiated more than 12 years ago when it first proposed adding bittering agents and dyes to deter children from eating rat poison. In the face of industry pressure, the EPA withdrew that requirement in 2001. The agency again issued a risk-mitigation decision in 2008 urging companies to voluntarily remove the worst products from the market. The makers of d-CON challenged the obligation to comply with voluntary measures, which led to the current cancellation order.




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