Rat Poison Company Sues California to Block Wildlife Protection Law

Rat poison and trap products from Reckitt Benckiser.
Rat poison and trap products from Reckitt Benckiser. | Photo: spike55151/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A major international corporation that sells a rat poison that's been implicated in the deaths of at least 25 species of wildlife in California is suing to prevent a ban on retail sales of its product.

The firm Reckitt Benckiser, manufacturers of the d-CON line of retail rat poisons, is claiming that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) didn't follow its own regulations in enacting a July 1 ban on retail sales of highly toxic anticoagulant rodent poisons in the state.

But wildlife defenders aren't buying it... literally. Slamming Reckitt Benckiser for what they term "corporate irresponsibility," a range of activists are calling for a boycott of Reckitt Benckiser's other brands until the company stops interfering with attempts to regulate sales of dangerous rat poisons.

The suit was filed last week in the Superior Court of California in San Diego.

I described both Reckitt Benckiser and the horrendous effects of its rodent poisons on California wildlife nearly two years ago here on KCET. In that article, I mentioned a Reckitt Benckiser suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that's substantially similar to the one filed this week against the California DPR. The EPA suit was essentially an attempt by Reckitt Benkiser to slow an inevitable ruling from the EPA strictly limiting sales of its products; the new suit in California gives every impression of being the same.

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In its suit against the DPR, Reckitt Benckiser charges that the agency didn't follow the letter of the California Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which it says would have required DPR to solicit public comment and administrative hearings before rescinding the right to sell a pesticide in the state.

Bizarrely, Reckitt Benckiser is also charging that DPR failed to obey the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in deciding to ban the retail sale of anticoagulant rat poisons in the state. The CEQA process, which would require study off the environmental effects of such a ban and public comment on that study, would almost certainly end up in a slam dunk in support of a ban on d-CON and similar products.

It seems that Reckitt Benckiser is spending money on lawyers to delay the inevitable in the state, in other words, and wildlife defenders aren't taking the lawsuit lying down.

"Reckitt Benckiser knows that California's bold decision to take d-CON off the shelves is a preview of things to come in other states," said attorney Greg Loarie of Earthjustice. "Reckitt is fighting hard to hold on to the past, but the corporation should know that we're prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure d-CON does not become the DDT of our time."

"We urge people to boycott all Reckitt-Benckiser products," said Lisa Owens Viani, director of Raptors Are the Solution, a group that has led the campaign to raise awareness of anticoagulant rats poisons' threat to wildlife. "This company couldn't care less about children, pets, and wildlife and we urge the public to let them know that this is unacceptable."

"It's disgusting that d-CON continues to challenge common-sense controls for protecting wildlife, children, and pets," added the Center for Biological Diversity's Jonathan Evans. "It's time to put public safety before corporate profits."

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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