Rat Poison Company to Discontinue Household Products

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Starting next year, red-tailed hawks and other wildlife will be a little bit safer from rodent poisons | Photo:Eric Bégin/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A company that sells rodent poisons that have been implicated in the deaths of a wide range of wildlife is agreeing to remove some of those products from the over-the-counter market, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.

Reckitt Benckiser, a conglomerate household products firm that sells the d-Con line of rat and mouse poisons, had been fighting the EPA, which served notice on the company in February 2013 that it intended to ban some d-Con products due to the hazard they posed wildlife, pets, and the public.

In an about-face that's part of a settlement of that dispute, Reckitt Benckiser will voluntarily remove 12 of its d-Con products from the retail market by March 2015, including eight that use the deadly "second-generation" anticoagulant poisons that have been implicated in deaths of raptors, rare mammalian predators such as the Pacific fisher, and other animals such as bobcats and coyotes.

The retail products being phased out are listed on the EPA's website.

The news follows a California move to ban many of the same rodenticides affected by today's announcement by July 1. Reckitt Benckiser sued to block that state regulation from taking effect. Now that the company has agreed to stop selling those products nationwide, the future of the suit against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation is unclear.

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"Second-generation" anticoagulants such as brodifacoum kill animals that ingest them by causing hemorrhaging and dehydration. The threat to other wildlife comes when predators or scavengers eat animals that have consumed the anticoagulants, whose lethality remains almost completely unimpaired in the bodies of its victims.

Groups such as the Bay-Area based Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that second-generation anticoagulants will still be available for use by exterminators.

"[T]he pest control industry will still be able to use these terrible products and they are still allowed to be sold in bulk in large quantities in agricultural supply stores," wrote a RATS representative on the group's Facebook page. "We are trying to find out what exactly is in d-Con's new poison and will keep you informed."

Limiting sales to contractors may help address EPA's other concern over the products to be discontinued, namely their lack of protective "bait stations" to contain the bait, thus at least in theory keeping children and pets from consuming the poisons therein.

Of course, allowing sale in bulk at agricultural supply stores will ensure that one problematic use of the rodenticides continues. Illegal pot growers have increasingly been using the rodenticides to keep wildlife from eating their crops, and they've been buying the products in bulk for that purpose. As a result, rare animals such as the Pacific fisher have increasingly been poisoned.

Reckitt Benckiser will ramp down production of the affected products in June, end their production by the end of the year, and then end all distribution through retail channels by March 2015. The EPA expects that stock on store shelves will be gone within three months of the end of deliveries.

Household consumers will still be able to use the products legally for as long as their personal supplies last. But just because it's legal, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Far better to dispose of them safely at a household hazardous waste disposal facility.

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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