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d-Con — Our Next DDT?

Reckitt Benckiser sues California over ban on rat poison that kills wildlife

Last week I wrote about California’s new plans to ban over-the-counter sales of certain anticoagulant rodenticides that are taking a huge toll on the state’s wildlife (Read the report here). But no sooner had the Department of Pesticide Regulation announced the ban, to begin on July 1, than the biggest manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, fired back with a lawsuit.

hawk Photo by Dave HarperThe magnificent golden eagle is another species that has been poisoned by anti-
coagulent rodenticides.It is not just California’s groundbreaking new rules the maker
of d-Con is fighting. Reckitt Benckiser has been fighting the US Environmental
Protection Agency for years.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are killing birds of prey — hawks, owls, falcons, golden eagles, even turkey vultures. These products are also killing endangered kit foxes and Pacific fishers, and people’s pets. They cause secondary poisoning when the predator animal consumes a poisoned rodent, or, as has happened with dogs, eats the bait directly.

Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of d-Con, claims that the state overstepped its authority and failed to do an analysis of the impacts of its ban under the California Environmental Quality Act. I find that claim just a bit ironic considering the impacts of their product on the environment — on birds of prey, wildlife, the entire food chain.

While the state’s proposed new rules are not strong enough to prevent all poisonings of wildlife and pets — the pest control industry is exempted from the ban — it would have removed products that are currently poisoning an estimated 10,000 children per year in addition to the pet and wildlife victims.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 800 pages of over 350 incidents of wildlife poisonings probably represent just the tip of the iceberg. The state says its records are far from comprehensive—they include only the animals that have been found and turned in to their agency. Wildlife biologists believe that many poison victims are never found or are eaten by other animals, probably continuing the chain of poison. WildCare, a wildlife rehab facility in San Rafael, found that over 76 percent of the animals it tested for rat poison in 2013 were contaminated. Many wildlife rehab facilities are receiving animals with the symptoms of rodenticide poisoning but cannot afford to test them (each test costs over $100 and most rehab facilities are operating on slim budgets). Even if the animals do not die immediately from rodenticide exposure, their health and body condition suffers, making it harder for them to hunt successfully, raise young, or ward off threats.

And it is not just California’s groundbreaking new rules the maker of d-Con is fighting. Reckitt Benckiser has been fighting the US Environmental Protection Agency for years. In 2008, the EPA gave all rat poison manufacturers three years to make their products safer — including making them tamper-proof for children. All of the poison manufacturers agreed — except for Reckitt Benckiser. Reckitt Benckiser continues to stall the EPA’s cancellation process with legal maneuvers.

DDT nearly caused the extinction of bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Similarly, this company’s rat poison products are causing the next “silent spring” for today’s raptors. We are poisoning the solution to our pest problems, thanks to one corporate bad actor that defies the EPA and hires herds of high-priced lawyers to sue the state. Meanwhile children continue to be poisoned, and pets and wildlife continue to die as poison infiltrates the food web.

Lisa Owens Viani
Lisa Owens Viani is co-founder of Raptors Are The Solution, an Earth Island Project working to educate the public about the dangers to children, pets, and wildlife from rodenticides.

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