Cities, Conservationists and Health Organizations Come Together to Curtail Use of Rodent-Killing Poisons That Threaten Children, Pets and Wildlife

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 318, jevans@biologicaldiversity.org
Cynthia Palmer, American Bird Conservancy, (202) 234-7181 x 205, CPalmer@abcbirds.org
Sarah Aird, Californians for Pesticide Reform, (510) 788-9025 x 5, sarah@pesticidereform.org

Cities, Conservationists and Health Organizations Come Together to Curtail Use of Rodent-Killing Poisons That Threaten Children, Pets and Wildlife

Groups Offer Safer Alternatives to Super-toxic Poisons Allowed by State

SAN FRANCISCO - A coalition of nonprofit organizations, municipalities, businesses, scientists and others have banded together to promote effective, affordable rodent-control strategies that protect children, pets and wildlife. The formation of the Safe Rodent Control Coalition coincides with a decision by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to allow the continued use of super-toxic rodenticides — known as “second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides” — by certified pest-control specialists. California’s announcement builds upon the move by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year to ban hazardous D-CON poisons nationwide.

“These dangerous poisons are continuing to poison children and kill pets, as well as endangered animals like San Joaquin kit foxes and northern spotted owls,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to rely on safe alternatives that are already on the shelf today.”

From 1993 until 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received between 12,000 and 15,000 reports of children under six years old being exposed to rat and mouse poison each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to rat poisons, and has highlighted thousands of recorded incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides, many resulting in serious injury or death.

“These rodent-control products are poisoning thousands of kids across the country, especially young children. But with many proven alternatives, this problem is avoidable,” said Medha Chandra, campaign coordinator for Pesticide Action Network North America. “There are cities and towns that are successfully controlling rodents without using these hazardous products. It's high time to protect kids’ well-being and take these specific products off the market.”

The EPA has begun the process of limiting the use of some rat and mouse poisons, and 13 cities and counties in California have called on local stores to voluntarily remove hazardous poisons from their shelves. The city of San Francisco launched the educational “Don’t Take the Bait” campaign to encourage merchants to voluntarily discontinue selling the most harmful rodent baits.

“Thousands of accidental exposures of children occur every year from rat bait products, including here in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen in support of the city of San Francisco’s Don’t Take the Bait program. “And the EPA has already clearly established, through a long scientific process, that these particular products pose an unreasonable risk. Yet they remain on store shelves due to legal wrangling.”

The harm to wildlife is widespread. Researchers at the University of California found second-generation anticoagulants in 70 percent of mammals and 68 percent of the birds they examined. Wildlife officials have documented poisonings in numerous animals, including raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons and owls) and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes. Biologists with the National Park Service have also documented deaths and poisonings of mountain lions and bobcats in Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains. Even in remote mountain areas, research has revealed unacceptably high levels of poison in an endangered forest predator: 75 percent of Pacific fishers tested showed rodenticide contamination.

“D-CON maker Reckitt Benckiser continues to make money off products that poison our nation’s kids, pets, owls and eagles,” said Cynthia Palmer, who directs the Pesticides Program for American Bird Conservancy. “Following years of meticulous evaluation and research, the EPA is trying to outlaw these poison pellets to safeguard children and animals. Every other rat-poison manufacturer has complied. D-CON’s decision to fight the EPA ban shows us the depths of corporate greed in this $37-billion British-based multinational conglomerate.”

The makers of d-CON rat poison have continually fought safeguards to reduce unnecessary poisonings of children, pets and wildlife. Reckitt Benckiser is currently fighting an order from the EPA to require tamper-resistant packaging and limit super-toxic rat poisons for consumer use.

“These super-toxic rat poisons are a completely unnecessary hazard when better, safer alternatives for rodent control exist to address current and future infestations,” said Sarah Aird, co-director of the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform. “The best fix for rodent problems is to address the underlying environmental and deficient housing conditions that give them access to food, water and shelter — what attracts them in the first place.”

The Safe Rodent Control Coalition provides information on practical solutions to rodent problems while informing the public of the hazards of rodenticide poisonings. Safe alternatives exist to address rodent outbreaks in homes and rural areas. Effective measures include rodent-proofing 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 highly toxic chemicals.

Background
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, which subsequently results in the poisoning of animals that feed on their carcasses.

The exposure and harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread. Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wildlife species in California alone including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows.

The 13 jurisdictions that have passed resolutions to discourage the use of the most harmful rodent baits are: San Francisco, Marin County, Berkeley, Richmond, Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Belmont, San Anselmo, Brisbane, Foster City, Malibu and Humboldt County.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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