EPA actions ruffle feathers at rodenticide manufacturer

The past months have seen a tightening of EPA regulations on rodenticide products. But according to at least one manufacturer, the strategy is misguided.

Back in 2008, the agency released its “Risk Mitigation Decision for Ten Rodenticide Products,” and announced a deadline of June 4, 2011, for manufacturers to research and develop safer rodenticide products. The agency said that it would bring cancellation proceedings against companies whose products do not follow the new regulations. After the deadline, the EPA issued a statement reiterating its plans to bring cancellation proceedings against non-compliant products, referencing four rodenticide manufacturers specifically. 

Alan Pryor is director of retail sales at Liphatech, one of the companies cited in the EPA’s June 4 statement. Pryor has voiced serious concerns about the EPA’s regulations, and the manner in which the agency is enforcing them. “They’re not logical, and they’re not consistent,” Pryor said, and referred to the EPA as “an agency run wild.” 

In January 2011, the EPA filed suit against Reckitt-Benckiser, another company mentioned in the statement, in an effort to bring misbranding action against the company’s non-compliant rodenticide products, in lieu of cancellation proceedings. The district court ruled in favor of Reckitt-Benckiser, and called the EPA’s determination that it had the authority to bring misbranding action against the company “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law.” 

Pryor said the court’s reprimand of the EPA was well deserved. “Clearly, the EPA is misbehaving,” he said. “They are answerable to nobody, and they make it up as they go. This is just another shining example of the EPA finding itself incapable of following the rules.”

From the EPA's point of view, the new rodenticide regulations are driven by concern for child, pet and wildlife exposures. Under the new regulations, the EPA hopes to ban the sale of some of the more deadly rat poisons, called second-generation anticoagulants, which are designed to be lethal in a single feeding. The EPA’s concern in this case is that with the second-generation anticoagulants, time-to-death is often several days, and in that time a rodent may feed on the poison multiple times, resulting in high toxicity levels in rodent carcasses. If these carcasses end up outdoors, they may be eaten by other wildlife, which in turn may also be affected by the poison.

However, only two states, New York and California, have actively tracked rodenticide incidents among wildlife, according to Pryor. He also believes that the EPA does not have enough data to justify banning certain kinds of second-generation anticoagulants in favor of other types of rodenticide, which a rodent must ingest multiple times to get a lethal dose.

The EPA is also requiring that rodenticides be encased in bait stations, to avoid exposure to children and pets. The EPA reported that between 1993 and 2008, 12,000 to 15,000 exposures to children six and under were reported, and that only an estimated 25% of total exposures are reported each year, so the number is actually much higher. However, only a small number of children exposed to rodenticides experience any symptoms, with an average of 115 symptomatic cases per year between 1999 and 2003. But even without the bait stations, Pryor said, most rat poisons are already treated with a bittering agent for safety purposes, so that a child who tries to ingest the rodenticide will dislike the taste and spit it back out again.

Ultimately, Pryor said, requiring weaker poisons and bait stations will result in a market full of products that are, as a whole, more expensive and less effective. 

According to Pryor, bringing cancellation proceedings against non-compliant rodenticide products will be a lengthy process for the EPA. Formally issuing a cancellation notice will take roughly four months, Pryor said, and after that, it may be one to two years before a court decision is made. Even then, Reckitt-Benckiser may file suit against the EPA if it is not satisfied with the results. Still, Pryor said, “The EPA will find themselves with egg all over their faces if they don’t move forward.” He added that the EPA hopes that in the meantime, retailers will take it upon themselves to enforce the mitigation decision and regulate the rodenticide products they sell.

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