A coalition of 67 conservation, environmental justice, public health, worker’s rights and sustainable farming groups joined more than 11,000 Californians in submitting comments recently urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to ban super-toxic rat and mouse poisons.
These highly toxic rodenticides, known as “second-generation anticoagulants,” have been linked to the poisonings of wildlife, pets and children. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed reducing consumer use of super-toxic rodenticides while simultaneously increasing their use by certified pest-control specialists.
”Iconic wildlife like the golden eagle, endangered San Joaquin kit fox and many others are literally bleeding to death from the ‘worst of the worst’ poisons on the market,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are safe, cost-effective options readily available that don’t threaten the health of our children and indiscriminately kill wildlife.”
The harm to wildlife is widespread. Researchers at the University of California found second-generation anticoagulants in 70 percent of the mammals and 68 percent of the birds they examined.
”These super-toxic rat poisons are a completely unnecessary hazard for children and families when better, safer alternatives for rodent control exist to address current and future infestations,” said Medha Chandra, campaign coordinator for Pesticide Action Network. “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 - the things that attracts them in the first place.”
Data from state pesticide regulators and the federal Environmental Protection Agency document that approximately 15,000 children under age six are accidentally exposed to rat poisons each year across the country. The EPA says children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to the poisons. Thousands of incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides have been reported, many resulting in serious injury or death.
But the powerful poisons have their greatest impact on wildlife.
”The most remote corners of our public wildlands are being contaminated with super-toxic poisons due to their use in egregious trespass marijuana grow operations,” said Gary Graham Hughes of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “It is imperative for our endangered wildlife that these dangerous materials are removed from the market as soon as possible.”
”California’s proposal to limit retail sales is a good starting point,” said Cynthia Palmer, pesticides program manager at American Bird Conservancy. “But unless stronger action is taken, owls, eagles and household pets will continue to die when they prey on sickened and disoriented rats and mice, a sad and tragic fate for wildlife and pets alike.”
A separate coalition of nonprofit organizations, municipalities, businesses and scientists formed the Safe Rodent Control Coalition earlier this year to promote effective, affordable rodent-control strategies that protect children, pets and wildlife. Effective alternatives include rodent-proofing of homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes in rural areas to encourage natural predation; and utilizing traps that don’t involve these 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.
California’s action follows steps at the national and local level. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to ban hazardous d-CON rat and mouse poisons nationwide after d-CON refused to remove super-toxic rodenticides from the residential market. Sixteen California jurisdictions have also passed resolutions urging the public and pest control operators to avoid the most harmful rodent poisons. Those jurisdictions include San Francisco, Marin County, Berkeley, Richmond, Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Belmont, San Anselmo, Brisbane, Foster City, Malibu, Whittier, Fairfax, Calabasas and Humboldt County.
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries, and native species in Northern California.