E.P.A. Moves to Enforce Standards for Rodenticides

On Wednesday, EPA announced it would move to ban the sale of twelve rodenticides manufactured by Reckitt Benckiser.  Reckitt Benckiser is the only manufacturer of rodenticides  that has refused to adopt EPA’s newest safety standards.  The standards, established in 2011, require all rodenticide products to be contained in protective tamper-resistant bait stations, and prohibits pellets and other bait forms that cannot be secured in bait stations.  Additional standards include labeling and minimum package size requirements and site use restrictions.

Rodenticides contain ten active ingredints, including first-generation anticoagulants (warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone), second-generation anticoagulants  (brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone), and non-anticoagulants (bromethalin, cholecalciferol and zinc phosphide).  Ingestion of anticoagulants can lead to excessive bleeding and death. Second-generation anticoagulants accumulate in body tissue and pass into the tissue of any predator or scavenger that eats the poisoned rodents.  Non-anticoagulants can also present a hazardous.  Bromethalin, a nerve toxin, causes respiratory distress in and death in humans.

While rodenticides are an important mechanism to control mice, rats and other rodents that threaten public health, they also present human and environmental safety concerns.  Approximately 10,000 children are accidentally exposed to rodenticides every year.  While only 100 of those cases require medical attention, data indicate that children in low-income families are disproportionately affected.  In addition to threats to human health, rodenticides affect wildlife, including birds, such as hawks and owls, and mammals, including raccoons, squirrels, skunks, deer, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, and bobcats. These animals can either be exposed after direct consumption, or indirectly, after a predator or scavenger eats something with rodenticides in its body tissue.  EPA’s standards are designed to mitigate these risks by reducing the pathways to exposure.

EPA is authorized to regulate the distribution, sale, and use of rodenticides under § 7 of FIFRA, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Before EPA may register a pesticide under FIFRA, the applicant must show that using the pesticide according to specifications “will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” including any unreasonable risk to humans, taking into account the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.  Registration is required for all new pesticides, as well as for new uses of previously registered products.

The Notice of Intent to Cancel the twelve products will be published in the Federal Register, after which Reckitt Benckiser will have 30 days to request a hearing before an EPA Administrative Law Judge. If a hearing is not requested, the ban on the products will be final and effective.

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