Have you ever noticed the poison traps next to buildings or in parking structures? Instead of practicing safe exclusion measures and conscientiously disposing of trash, people often allow rat and mice populations to grow and then justify their killing of these poor animals with methods that cause horrific suffering.
As bad as those rat traps are, current EPA rules allow for the indiscriminate use of non-containerized rodent poisons in areas where rats, mice, wildlife, children, and other companion animals can consume it quite readily. Loose bait rodenticides are cheaper to produce and use than containerized poisons, so it is not surprising that more deaths occur in lower-income areas. Moreover, rodenticides have become increasingly toxic, and they can be sold in unlimited amounts, greatly increasing the risks to all animals and the environment, which affects all animals, including rats and mice.
A couple of years ago, the EPA agreed to new rules that would limit the amount and toxicity of rat poisons sold to residential consumers, as well as prohibit the sale of loose bait rodenticides to residential consumers. The rules – supposed to go into effect early this month – would make it illegal to sell rat and mouse poisons to residential consumers unless the packaging is such that only a rat or mouse could get in, not a child or other animal. Other rules would limit the toxicity and amount of rodenticides that can be sold to retail consumers at one time. Taken together, implementation of the rules should result in less usage of rat poisons, which could be of some help to rats and mice as well as to other animals.
Two top rodenticide-producing companies (D-Con and Woodstream Corporation) are among four companies fighting against the ban, with protests to the EPA and stated intent to challenge the rules if implemented. If the ban is not implemented, it will be left up to each property owner to decide how to kill animals they believe are pests. If the rules are not implemented, residential consumers would continue to be able to buy large amounts of poison, and they would continue to be able to buy the most toxic compounds.
It is troubling that poisons are used at all. Certainly humans could do a better job of preventing the growth of animal populations they consider to be “pests” by non-lethal means. On the other hand, incremental bans and restrictions like these could be understood as positive attempts to limit the extent of harm we currently engage in and to begin to change the public’s thinking about entitlement to use poisons. If you would like to read more, the following links provide more information.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Takes Major Actions to Reduce Americans’ Risk from Mouse and Rat Poisons / Move Will Better Protect Children, Pets, and Wildlife (June 7, 2011).
Robert McClure & Environmental Health News, Rat Poisons Endanger 10,000 Children Every Year in U.S., Scientific American (Dec. 14, 2010).
Ryan Tracy, EPA to Ban Some Rat Poisons, Wall Street Journal (June 7, 2011).
Home Channel News, Bait Pellet Rodenticide to Remain on Shelves (Mar. 14, 2011).