THE BLOG

Astounding Acts of Arrogance From the Makers of d-Con, Reckitt Benckiser

02/13/2013 08:08 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2013
  • Maggie Sergio Writer, Conservationist, Co-Founder of Island Watch and Concerned Citizen of the Planet

On January 30, 2013, the EPA announced a long overdue and highly anticipated decision when they issued their "Final Notice of Intent to Cancel" to Reckitt Benckiser. The filing of this notice comes after Reckitt Benckiser's (maker of d-Con) refusal to comply with the EPA's request to modify their packaging so that exposure to small children would be eliminated. For background on how we got to this point, please see my articles here, and here.

This ruling is a great first step and I applaud the EPA for doing this; however we still have a long way to go to protect wildlife and pets from deadly rodent poisons (rodenticides). The second generation anticoagulants haven't been completely banned, but the ruling bans the sale of loose pellets, blocks or pastes of rat poison. This means that these deadly pesticides will still continue to kill wildlife, including many endangered species. Wildlife will continue to suffer the effects of secondary poisoning because the pest control industry will still be allowed to use these same dangerous rodenticides in bait boxes they are able to place at their own discretion, without any oversight.

Another very disheartening aspect of the EPA's ruling last week is that loose pellets of rat poison will still be available for sale in agricultural areas, though, only in large quantities. It is hard to understand the logic behind this.

Additionally, this ruling doesn't make mention of the first generation rodenticides, diphacinone, chloropacinone or warfarin which also cause the secondary and primary poisoning of wildlife and pets.

That being said, I am grateful this issue has finally gotten national attention and this ruling is the first step in eliminating the practice of indiscriminately poisoning the main food source for so many species that serve as nature's rodent control.

Last week's ruling will get loose pellets of d-Con out of the hands of consumers and protect children... ONLY IF the manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser, complies with the EPA's mandate. Reckitt Benckiser is once again, defying an EPA order and refusing to make their products safer or discontinue selling them.

In a statement released by Reckitt Benckiser, spinmeister Hal Ambuter had the following to say:

"We will vigorously challenge EPA's actions to ensure that these effective and affordable rodent control products remain available to consumers to protect their homes and families for generations to come," Hal Ambuter, Director of Regulatory and Government Affairs for D-Con at Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc (RB/).

"Protect their homes and families for generations to come?" Really? Oh please Hal, give it a rest. Reckitt Benckiser has only one interest and that is to continue to sell their lethal toxins to the public. This is about money and market share, not public safety. How is Reckitt Benckiser "protecting" anyone here? Actually they are endangering the public and the children, pets and wildlife they claim to value!

The arrogance of Reckitt Benckiser is truly astounding. Accidental ingestion of rat poison is a huge child safety issue that impacts approximately 12,000-15,000 children under the age of 6 every year. With this very public knowledge from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, Reckitt Benckiser has the audacity to talk about protecting families?

In June of 2011 there were just three hold-outs defying the EPA's initial request for safer alternatives; Reckitt Benckiser, Liphatech and Spectrum Group, a Division of United Industries. For the last year and a half, these three companies have refused to comply with the EPA's request. Recently, both Liphatech and Spectrum Group conceded and decided they would pull their loose pellet products from the market, and re-package them in tamper proof bait stations.

Reckitt Benckiser stands alone in their defiance of the EPA's ruling, so they will still be able to sell their banned products while contesting the EPA's decision. Since the other manufacturers are complying with the EPA's request, this means that d-Con will be the only brodifacoum product on the market available in loose pellet form. This will give them a monopoly and an advantage over their competition. While I'm not an antitrust attorney, I am surprised that Reckitt Benckiser's competitors aren't contesting this.

As a volunteer with "Raptors are the Solution," former wildlife rehabber, and a conservationist I have been an active participant in this fight for many years. From my first phone call to the EPA in 2009 to the recent conference calls the EPA has held with environmental groups over the past year, I have witnessed this process closely.

Disturbing reports from inside the beltway allege that Reckitt Benckiser has hired a lobbyist who is a former Congressman. This former Congressman has been asking members of Congress to put pressure on the EPA to back off on their Final Notice of Intent to Cancel. Tragic and infuriating are the best words to describe the emotions I felt when I first heard this news several months ago. I immediately picked up the phone and placed calls to the two Congressmen I had heard were affiliated with this effort; Senator Robert Menendez of NJ, and US Representative Gene Greene from Texas. I wish I could share with you all the results of these conversations, but I can only share that my phone calls were never returned.

I am watching now as a rodenticide called, "Bromethalin" has increased in use as a "safer" rodent poison and am puzzled by the fact that this particular poison, which is a neuro-toxin and has no antidote, is listed on the EPA's web site as being an alternative! So very little is known in the scientific community about this rodenticide including what are the actual risks of secondary poisoning. Common sense tells me that when using a poison on a potential food source (rodents), that food source is then poisoned and carries that poison up the food chain, where it can actually intensify.

One thing I would like to leave readers with is that poisons are not necessary for rodent control. I am extremely proud of the work that my adopted home of Marin County, CA has done to eliminate the use of ALL rodenticides on all county land, parks, buildings and open space. I am thrilled to report that Marin County has been able to control the rodent population using the very basic principles of Integrated Pest Management. Since 2009 Marin County has been demonstrating this and received an award in 2012 from California Department of Pesticide Regulation for being "Innovators In IPM."

If you want to learn more about how Marin County, CA was able to do this, you can find Marin County's IPM Pest Specific plan for rodents here.

What can you do about this? First, and most importantly, do not buy any rodenticide products, and if you hire a pest control company, hire a company that practices Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and will only use manual trapping if a rodent population needs to be reduced. If a pest control company tells you that "their type of rodent poisons" doesn't impact wildlife, ask for the name of the chemical and do your own research. Or, feel free to contact raptorsarethesolution.org and we can share our knowledge and research with you.

Second, review the products manufactured and sold by Reckitt Benckiser so that you can boycott each and every one. This is the best way to affect a corporation. Some of Reckitt Benckiser's 37 billion dollar portfolio of products include major name brands such as Lysol, Woolite, Clearasil, French's Mustard, Durex condoms, Gaviscon, Scholl footcare, Calgon and others. You can find a complete list of products to boycott here.

In closing, I would like to invite Hal Ambuter from Reckitt Benckiser to San Francisco for a public debate on whether the use of rodenticides is actually necessary to control rodent populations. My personal experience has taught me that "Prevention, Not Poison" is the most important tool in the IPM toolbox.

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