Last month, the State of California took a step in the right direction by trying to ban over-the-counter sales of dangerous anticoagulant rat poisons that are harming children, killing pets, and devastating wildlife, including endangered species. But within days after California announced the new regulations—which are meant to take effect on July 1—Reckitt Benckiser, the $37.5 billion multi-national corporation that manufactures and sells d-Con, filed a lawsuit against the state.
While the new rules are not strong enough to prevent all poisonings of wildlife and pets—the pest control industry was exempted from the ban—they would take some of the products that are currently poisoning an estimated 10,000 children per year off retail shelves, a bold step which would also greatly reduce the number of pet and wildlife victims. The impact on wildlife from these poisons cannot be understated. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has over 800 pages of at least 350 incidents of wildlife poisonings (and these are only the animals that have been found and turned in). Biologists believe many animals perish and are never found, meaning that what we are seeing is probably only the tip of the iceberg. WildCare, a wildlife rehab facility in San Rafael, found that over 76 percent of the animals it tested for rat poison in 2013 were contaminated with rat poison. Many wildlife rehab facilities are receiving animals with the symptoms of rodenticide poisoning but cannot afford to test them (each test costs over $100 and most rehab facilities are operating on slim budgets). If the animals do not die immediately from rodenticide exposure, their behavior can suffer, with fatal consequences.
It is not just the groundbreaking new rules in California that the makers of d-Con are fighting. Reckitt Benckiser has been fighting federal regulations too. In 2008, the US EPA gave all rat poison manufacturers three years to make their products safer—including making them tamper-proof for children. All of the poison manufacturers agreed—except for Reckitt Benckiser, which now holds the EPA hostage while it engages in legal maneuvers.
Much as DDT nearly resulted in the extinction of an iconic species like the Bald Eagle, this company’s rat poison products are causing the next “silent spring” for birds of prey such as hawks, barn owls, and the increasingly endangered Northern Spotted Owl (among many others). These poisons are also clearly presenting mortal threats to endangered mammals like the San Joaquin kit fox and the Pacific fisher. There is something seriously wrong when a corporate bully can tie the hands of both federal and state regulatory agencies in bureaucratic legal maneuvers while children are poisoned, pets and wildlife continue to perish, and the food web continues to be contaminated.
This article was co-authored by Lisa Owens-Viani of Raptors are the Solution .