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Reckitt Benckiser to Scrap Over-the-Counter Rat Poisons, But We Aren’t Celebrating Yet

Two other toxic anticoagulants and several poisons are still available to consumers and the pest control industry

It seemed like cause for celebration at first — the announcement that after six years of stalling, Reckitt Benckiser had finally agreed to comply with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s orders on some of its dangerous d-CON brand consumer rat poisons. But exactly what does this agreement do to help prevent more poisoning of raptors and other wildlife, children and dogs?

two fledgling great horned owls.Photo by Dave HarperFledgling great horned owls. Poisoned rodents can end up killing other animals and raptors that eat them.

Reckitt Benckiser has agreed to phase out production of 12 of the second-generation anticoagulant products it has been selling over-the-counter by December 31, 2014, and to cease distribution by March 31, 2015. That leaves 10 full months for these products to continue poisoning children, pets, and wildlife. They have also agreed not to “stockpile” their product, but who will be checking?

The agreement removes the products Reckitt Benckiser was previously selling in “loose pellet” form that contained several of the worst anticoagulants, a good step in the right direction. However, the EPA has exempted two other dangerous anticoagulants and several other poisons that are still on consumer shelves and being sold by several manufacturers, including Reckitt Benckiser. These products include Chlorophacinone and Diphacinone — both anticoagulants that have killed many birds of prey and other wildlife, and Bromethalin — a nerve toxin for which there is no known antidote and which has killed pets. As I've mentioned in earlier articles, these toxic chemicals cause secondary poisoning when a predator animal consumes a poisoned rodent, or, as has happened with dogs, eats the bait directly.

Diphacinone and Chlorophacinone have killed golden eagles, Canada geese, barn owls, bald eagles, kangaroo rats, bobcats, turkey vultures, coyotes, great horned owls, badgers, foxes, and mountain lions. Some of these products are still being sold in non-tamper proof containers, so children and pets remain at risk.

The effects of Bromethalin on wildlife are not yet well known, although the California Department of Fish & Wildlife has received one fatality report and the labels on Bromethalin state that it is “extremely toxic” to birds and mammals. If a robin in your backyard eats the bait (you can buy Bromethalin in the shape of a worm), you can assume it will die.

Possibly the biggest problem, though, is that the EPA will continue to allow the pest control industry to use second generation anticoagulants in perpetuity, their argument being that pest control operators will “apply it more carefully.” But there is no scientific evidence that most poisoning of non-target animals, bird and pets were caused by poisons applied by homeowners.

The EPA admits it has no science to back up its argument. A bait box with a poisoned rodent checking out of it creates the same toxic bomb, whether placed by a pest control company or a homeowner or a business. The EPA will also continue to allow second generation anticoagulants and other rat poisons to be allowed to be sold in bulk at large agricultural feed stores.

Raptors Are The Solution has posted a table of all of the poisons that are still allowed for over-the-counter sale. You can check it out here We’ve also listed their known impacts. We will save our celebration for when none of these products are sold anymore.

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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