Last September, the EPA released a statement about its plan to ban the sale of “the most toxic rat and mouse poisons and “rodenticide products that use loose bait and pellets.” Its reason for doing so was “to better protect children, pets, and wildlife.” The EPA had previously announced in 2008 that “rodenticide manufacturers would have three years to adopt limits on the sale of the products” after the agency had gone through “thirteen years of studies, hearings, reports and legal battles.”
According to PRWatch, the EPA became aware that rodenticides “were finding their way into the food chain” by the early 1980s. Poison control centers in this country had been receiving 12,000 to 15,000 calls annually regarding the exposure of children under the age of six to rat poison.
In 1998, the Clinton administration’s EPA deemed that rodenticides had to taste bitter, so kids wouldn’t eat the products, and be colored with a bright dye, so it would be obvious if they did. The EPA backed down from these requirements in 2001 after George W. Bush took office and made the measures “voluntary,” reportedly due to industry pressure.
After seeing no drop in the number of children being poisoned by rodenticides, in 2004 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed suit to force the EPA to take action, and a New York district court criticized the agency for reversing itself and caving to pesticide manufacturers. The court wrote, “the EPA lacked even the proverbial ‘scintilla’ of evidence justifying its reversal of the requirement it had imposed, after extensive study, only a few years before.” In response, the EPA took steps to regulate the products. Those rules were intended to go into effect this year, but were delayed by the resistance of Reckitt Benckiser and two other rodenticide manufacturers, Liphatech and Spectrum Group.
The EPA estimates that the unreported child exposure rate may be four times as high as the 12,000-15,000 calls to poison control centers each year, and some believe the number to be ten times as high. Poisoned young children can experience internal bleeding, bloody urine, bleeding gums, and blood coming from their ears. African-American and Hispanic children living below the poverty line have been disproportionately affected. A New York study found that 57 percent of children hospitalized for eating rat poison between 1990 and 1997 were African-American and 26 percent were Latino.
Known as anti-coagulants, the chemicals in the rodenticides prevent blood from clotting or coagulating. In addition to the ill-effects of rodenticides on young children mentioned above, poisoned children can suffer coma, anemia, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and bloody stools. For decades, many thousands of young children have become ill “after touching or ingesting rat poison that was applied ‘loose,’ in pellet form.” According to MSNBC, the EPA reported that rat poisons “are, by far, the leading cause of (pesticide-related) visits to health care facilities in children under the age of 6 and the second leading cause of hospitalization.”
The poisons have also had deleterious effects on wildlife. Wild animals—including bald eagles and bobcats— “have been found dead with lethal levels of a super-toxic rodenticide in their systems.”
One would have hoped that the three manufacturers of rodenticides who have delayed implementation of the new EPA regulations, would be terribly concerned about the ill-effects that their products have had on both children and animals…and maybe have felt a responsibility to comply with the new requirements. Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of d-CON®, doesn’t appear concerned at all. The company, a member of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), filed suit in federal court to prevent EPA’s new rules from going into effect. Reckitt Benckiser claims the restrictions on use of rat poisons would probably lead to “potentially significant public health consequences.” Todd M. Wynn, the director of the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force spoke out in defense of the companies who have not complied. He said, “There are certain levels of acceptable risk in society.”
Aaron Colangelo, who is an attorney for the NRDC, said, “It is outrageous to say it is ‘acceptable’ for tens of thousands of kids to get poisoned each year.” He told the Center for Media and Democracy that “there is not an undue economic burden associated with reformulating these products.” Colangelo pointed out that the rest of the industry had complied with the new rules without adverse economic impact and that “the health care costs for treating these kids certainly outweigh the economic costs of reformulation.” He added, “Kids find it everywhere. Outside their apartment complex, or in public parks, or in schools, or in public housing. Little kids will put anything in their mouth.”
Colangelo thinks it disgraceful that “a few ‘hold-out bad actors from the chemical industry’ are further delaying EPA regulation of the rodenticides, despite decades of evidence of harm.” Said Colangelo, “It should not take this long to do something simple like protect toddlers from rat poisoning.”
For years, ALEC has successfully killed these kind of regulations on environmental toxins and pollutants on behalf of corporations. At their annual conference in New Orleans this year, ALEC distributed a pamphlet titled “The Many Benefits Of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment,” complete with pictures depicting happy wildlife and a healthy environment. Companies like Koch Industries, BP, WalMart, and others join forces to fund this little-known organization that works behind the scenes to fight the dirty battles that no corporation would want to be publicly associated with.
Kids Eating Rat Poison Is an “Acceptable Risk” for ALEC (PRWatch/Center for Media and Democracy)
ALEC Deems Kids Eating Rat Poison An ‘Acceptable Risk’ (ThinkProgress)
to ALEC – Your Safety is a Non-Issue (Daily Kos)
Corporate Education Reform and ALEC’s Definition of Acceptable Risk (Huffington Post)