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d-CON takes stand against EPA in rodent wars

BY Ken Ryan

For the first time in 20 years, a company has declined to voluntarily implement the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) risk mitigation measures for a pesticide product. And that company, Reckitt Benckiser, makers of the d-CON branded mouse and rat poison products, said it has done nothing wrong, and would rather fight than switch.

And so goes this cat-and-mouse game that will eventually be decided by the courts.

While the EPA has charged that 12 d-CON products fail to comply with its current safety standards agreed upon in 2011; pose "unreasonable risks to children, pets and wildlife;" and thus should be removed, d-CON’s take is that the government agency is "forcing consumers to choose from ‘inferior’ or ‘less safe’ rodent control product."

Hal Ambuter, d-CON director of regulatory and government affairs, said the company has spent "considerable time" over the past several years trying to work with the EPA to develop alternate mitigation measures "to address our mutual concerns about accidental exposures to children, pets and non-target wildlife."

But removing d-CON products from the shelves is not the answer, according to Ambuter, who argues that doing so would leave consumers with less effective alternatives and "could put the public health and environment at greater risk."

Some competitors disagree with d-CON’s stance that the new EPA standards, which focus on packaging and the elimination of certain toxins, render products less effective. "We developed new products that met EPA guidelines and, since June 2011, have manufactured and sold rodent control products that incorporate these new safety standards," said Steve Levy, president and CEO of Bell Laboratories, makers of the Tomcat pesticide. "When faced with the new EPA requirements, we chose the responsible route."

POINT/COUNTERPOINT

In lieu of product cancellation, d-CON proposed alternative measures for the EPA to consider, among them modifications that eliminate all outdoor uses of its second-generation anticoagulant products and a thorough redesign of the product labels that make them easier to read and understand through pictures, icons and Spanish language text with simplified directions. Ambuter claims the EPA has used some of these measures on other household use products, such as flea/tick treatments and insect foggers. "The mitigation measures we proposed combine the best practices of all these other programs," Ambuter said.

However, on Feb. 5, 2013, the EPA rejected d-CON’s "alternative measures" and announced it was proposing to cancel the registrations of 12 d-CON bait products. In response, d-CON on March 6 filed documents objecting to the proposed cancellation and requested a hearing before an EPA administrative law judge.

"During these proceedings we intend to present evidence demonstrating why EPA’s proposal should be modified or rejected," Ambuter said.

RISK TO EXPOSURE

James Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said the agency has worked with several companies during the last five years to develop safer rodent control products that are effective, affordable and widely available to meet the needs of consumers. He cited Tomcat products, PM Resources’ Assault brand products and Chemsico’s products as meeting the standard.

The EPA now requires rodenticide products for consumer use to be contained in protective tamper-resistant bait stations and prohibits pellets and other bait forms that cannot be secured in bait stations. In addition, the EPA prohibits the sale to residential consumer products that contain brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum because of their toxicity to wildlife. The EPA estimates that approximately 10,000 children a year are accidentally exposed to mouse and rat baits, and 1% of those need medical attention, an agency spokesman said, citing data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

The 12 d-CON mouse and rat poison products under probe are sold to consumers as pellets or powder without adequately protective bait stations that prevent access by children and pets, the EPA said. Eight of the 12 products also contain one of four second-generation anticoagulants.

d-CON counters that "there are better solutions to addressing those concerns than removing the affordable and effective options from consumers that d-CON products provide," Ambuter said. "We agree with the EPA and environmental groups that non-target wildlife should not be exposed to consumer-use rodenticides. We don’t agree that consumer products are the issue. Our d-CON brand consumer products are packaged in small-size containers of 1 to 3 ounces in shapes and sizes that can be placed out of reach and behind appliances."

d-CON also believed consumers "should have the ability to choose wisely and to use the product they choose appropriately. With additional consumer education and awareness on the proper use of our d-CON bait products, the incidents of accidental exposures of children and pets can be reduced even further, which is a goal we all share," Ambuter said.

Until the issue is resolved, the d-CON products will be available at retail stores. "We remain confident that, at the end of this process, our products will remain available for consumers to use to treat and manage rodent problems in their homes," Ambuter said.

The EPA, meanwhile, is encouraging retailers to stock "only those products that meet EPA’s safety standard."

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National Hardware Show preview

BY HBSDEALER Staff

As home building begins to rebound after a five-year slide, the National Hardware Show is celebrating with an expanded Building Products category that calls out exhibitors with special signage to make them easy to pick out on the show floor. Among those scheduled to represent this enhanced category are GRK Fasteners, Louisville Ladder, CoverGrip Corporation and Dumond Chemicals, and pro dealers planning to attend include Gahahl Lumber and BMC.

"Timing is everything, and we are confident that this is the right time to welcome traditional hardline building products back to the Show," said Sonya Ruff Jarvis, VP attendee programs for Reed Exhibitions. "We will offer building products that complement the core hardware category, such as tarp, twine, rope, blades, tools, fasteners, power tools, metal framing and more." Dumond Chemicals, in its 22nd year at the National Hardware Show, will unveil new environmentally friendly paint removal products, Catch-N-Cover microfiltration membranes and graffiti removal products. "Being under the Building Products umbrella, it's going to be good to have a dedicated space to introduce new products to the dealers and heighten their awareness of these new products, which can ultimately lead them into new customer segments," said Dumond president and CEO John Petroci.

Also for the first time this year, the Farm & Ranch category will have a dedicated area of 20,000 sq. ft. on the show floor and will feature such exhibitors as Hengjin Electron Co., MaxPower Precision Parts, Solo Inc. and The Cordage Source. Megan Menzer, owner of Newton's True Value in Cherryvale, Kan., is happy to see the expansion of Farm & Ranch at the Hardware Show, which reflects what's been happening in her own two stores.

"Farm and ranch is big in our area, and we recently started a dedicated section in our stores," said Menzer, who opened her second location in October 2012 and carries such products as cow tags, electric fences, minor medical supplies, herbicides and pesticides. "Instead of having special Farm & Ranch stores, you're now finding the category is present in more diversified locations, including many hardware stores. Fifty years ago, that's what the hardware store was — a farm and ranch supply store — and I think that's coming back."

In other developments, Made-in-the-USA products will have their own area on the show floor and include displays from more than 50 companies; the Pet Pavilion has been expanded and features special signage; and the Energy Efficient Products section, being sponsored by Polaroid and Intelligent Green Products, has been beefed up and will include exhibitors Heat Controller, Niagara Conservation Corp. and Polaroid Lighting.

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A discourse on distribution

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Ron Beal, president and CEO of Memphis, Tenn.-based Orgill, presented his views on hardware distribution during the President’s Council meeting in Las Vegas. Here are the highlights.

The overview

"I’ve been at this a long time. One of the things that always impressed me is how simple distribution is to conceptualize, but how complex and how difficult it can be to actually execute. … It’s pretty easy to understand why companies are not exactly standing in line to get in the business of distributing hardware products."

The challenge

"For the most part the items that we deal with are not high value, especially when compared with basic building materials. Many are not easily conveyable — think extension ladders or wheel barrows. And far too many are relatively slow-moving. So put simply, we deal with a lot of stuff. But stuff that is necessary to complete any home improvement or home construction project anywhere."

The cost

"A big thing, and one we spend a lot of time on, is operational costs. It’s essential that we know operational costs — ours and those of our suppliers, as well as our customers. Hardware distribution is a transactional-based high-volume business, and cost is involved every time you touch a product."

The competition

"Price and efficiency are about the only ways to differentiate among [hardware distributors]. And price relates back directly to efficiency."

The infrastructure

"We’re investing millions of dollars to make sure our systems and facilities and equipment remain modern and efficient. About 85% of Orgill’s warehouse capacity has been placed in service within the last 10 years. Just in the last three years, we’ve opened two new facilities and we’ve closed two that were obsolete."

The finer points

"Another thing we think is important, is we don’t dumb down. And what I mean by that is we don’t subsidize any customer or any product at the expense of another customer or product. We don’t do much bundling in our pricing because we prefer to give our customers as much flexibility as we can in picking the service mix that makes the most sense for their business."

The fleet

"We’re also in the process this year of upgrading our delivery fleet, doing this to the latest high-performance diesel engine tractors that based on the tests that we run, we saw an 8% to 9% improvement in miles per gallon. Since our fleet is expected to travel some 26 million miles this year, that represents some really serious savings."

The statistic

"In a five-year period ending in 2012, we lowered our SWD (shipping warehouse and delivery costs,) as a percentage of warehouse sales by over 20%. This is very meaningful, and we were able to pass these savings on to our customers."

The understatement

"We know that we’re not sending rockets to the moon, but on most days it’s pretty much a full-time job."

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