Agreement will reduce access to some rodenticides

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An agreement between regulators and a rodenticide producer will reduce access to poisons that the regulators say are unsafe for children, pets, and wildlife.

Reckitt Benckiser had been the only company to fight restrictions that took effect in 2011, and the agreement followed proceedings by the Environmental Protection Agency to force withdrawal of the products.

The EPA announced May 30 that Reckitt Benckiser had agreed to stop making 12 d-Con rodenticide products by the end of 2014 and stop distributing them before April 2015.

Kit fox
The EPA cited the risks second-generation anticoagulants pose to San Joaquin kit foxes, an endangered species, and other endangered and threatened species in describing the agency’s decision to reduce public access to such rodenticides. (Photo by B. “Moose” Peterson/ Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Eight of the products contain brodifacoum or difethialone, second-generation anticoagulants that the agency considers to be dangers to wild animals such as scavengers and predators. The other four, which contain the first-generation anticoagulant warfarin, are sold without the bait housing that the agency requires to reduce risks that children and pets will eat loose poison pellets or meal.

The agency announced in May that fewer children have been poisoned by rodenticides since the new standards took effect. Catherine C. Milbourn, an agency spokeswoman, said one company’s data showed a 50 percent decline in exposures among children since 2011, and none of those ate poison that had been in a bait housing. She expects further reductions with changes to the d-Con products.

Agency documents filed in mid-2008 indicate a study in New York found residues from second-generation anticoagulants in 48 percent of diurnal raptors and owls analyzed. In California, residues were found in more than 70 percent of bobcats, mountain lions, and San Joaquin kit foxes analyzed.

Milbourn said the agency is confident the changes in rodenticides will reduce wildlife exposures and deaths.

The EPA is also discouraging people from buying second-generation anticoagulants intended for agricultural use by requiring that each package contain at least 8 pounds of bait. Packages sold to pest control operators need to contain at least 16 pounds of bait.

Dr. Ahna Brutlag, associate director of veterinary services for SafetyCall International and the Pet Poison Helpline, said Reckitt Benckiser is expected to replace the d-Con products with ones containing diphacinone, a first-generation anticoagulant. Those with the help line previously had concerns that the manufacturer instead would switch to bromethalin, a neurotoxic poison that has no antidote. The help line has received more calls about bromethalin since the EPA rules took effect (see article).

State authorities in California already planned to prohibit sales of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides to the public starting July 1. Officials with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation announced May 30 that the state’s actions would be unaffected by the national agreement, which arrived three weeks after a ruling in favor of the state agency from the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego.

A department document that describes the need for the change cites the prevalence of second-generation anticoagulant residues found through a state government analysis of wildlife illnesses and deaths from 1995-2011. Of animals included in the analysis, 368 of 492, or 73 percent, had such residues in samples, according to the document.

Related JAVMA content:

Rodenticide use, risks may change (March 15, 2013)