07/17/2012 10:53 am ET Updated Sep 16, 2012

Makers of Banned Rat Poisons Ignore the EPA

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Bill Daniels, president of United Markets in Marin County. I first met Bill in 2005 and have always been impressed by his dedication and commitment to the county and people of Marin. In talking with Bill last week, I learned that he feels a personal responsibility for the products he carries on his store shelves. United Markets discontinued selling cigarettes years ago, and recently became one of the few retailers to refuse carrying alcoholic beverages cleverly marketed and disguised as soft drinks.

My meeting last week was to chat with Bill about a resolution passed by Marin County's Board of Supervisors in May of this year. This resolution concerns over-the-counter rat poison products D-Con, Tomkat, Fleetject, Rozol, Hot Shot and others that contain brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone or difenacoum. The board of supervisors is asking that retailers selling these poisons for rodent control to voluntarily pull these products from their store shelves.

These products are second-generation rodenticides designed to kill quickly by interfering with the blood's natural clotting ability. When mammals (including humans) and birds consume these poisons either directly or indirectly, bleeding to death is the gruesome outcome.

What so few consumers are aware of is that the EPA has started the process of banning these deadly poisons for the consumer market. In 2008, the EPA told the manufacturers of these products (Reckitt-Benckiser, Spectrum Group and Liphatech) that they had until June 2011 to come up with safer alternatives. The pesticide industry was given three years to come up with products that don't impact children or kill pets and wildlife.

June 2011 passed and the pesticide industry produced nothing. The EPA then began the process to ban these products from store shelves. The manufacturers then, in an incredibly arrogant and bold maneuverer, refused to comply with the EPA's request to discontinue distributing these products.

Instead these manufacturers are now fighting for their "right" to continue selling their lethal poisons.

Every year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers receives anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 reports of children under the age of 6 being exposed to these deadly rat poisons. California Department of Fish and Game has confirmed more than 240 cases of secondary poisoning (secondary poisoning occurs when predators such as a hawks, owls, bobcats, eagles, mountain lions, etc., are poisoned because they have eaten a poisoned rodent) in California. Marin's Pet Emergency hospital in San Rafael estimates they treat approximately 100 dogs per year because of accidental exposure to rat poison.

The empirical data clearly indicates these products have adverse effects and kill so much more than just rodents. We don't need any more testing or any more evidence.

The EPA has already started the process to ban these products. As Warren Zevon sings, what is needed now is "lawyers, guns and money" as the legal battle to empower the EPA and protect children, wildlife and pets takes the pesticide industry and lobby head on.

While the legal fight between the EPA and the pesticide industry will take years, state and local governments can take action and ask that retailers voluntarily pull these products from their stores. Marin County joins San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond and Albany in passing resolutions asking for retailers to voluntarily discontinue selling the products that have been banned by the EPA.

United Markets will discontinue carrying the products recently banned by the EPA. Additionally, they are removing gopher poisons. Gopher poisons haven't been banned; however, they usually contain strychnine as the active ingredient. Strychnine has no known antidote.

As consumers, we are in the driver's seat. We can simply refuse to purchase these products and educate ourselves on how to control rodents effectively without poisons. More information on the science based approach of Integrated Pest Management can be found here.