by Pesticide Action Network North America
An environmental justice group in Harlem and a national environmental
organization have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental
Agency (EPA) for failing to protect children from rodenticide
poisoning. According to EPA's own estimates, approximately 60,000
children each year accidentally ingest rat poison, yet the agency
came to a "mutual agreement" with manufacturers in 2001
not to require that two effective deterrents--a bittering agent
and a dye-- be included in rodenticide products. West Harlem Environmental
Action (WEACT) and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in New York on November
9, 2004 challenging the agency's decision.
Annually, more than 15,000 cases of children have accidentally
ingesting rat poison are reported to the American Association
of Poison Control Centers. The EPA estimates that only 25% of
such poisonings are actually reported, with as many as 60,000
children poisoned each year. Because most rodenticides act by
causing internal bleeding, poisoning effects include nosebleeds,
bleeding gums, bleeding into the skin, anemia, internal bleeding,
coma, significant breathlessness and death.
In 1998, EPA determined that the numbers of annual reported child
poisonings involving rodenticides violated the safety standard
of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Based on that finding, the agency concluded that rodenticides
marketed in the U.S. should include a bittering agent to make
them unpalatable to humans and a dye to clearly indicate ingestion
of the pesticide. EPA's 2001 agreement with rodenticide manufactures
rescinded these requirements but did not change the finding under
FIFRA, therefore, according to the complaint, EPA is in violation
of the law.
WEACT notes that rodenticide poisoning harms children in all
ethnic communities, but poor African American and Latino children
are disproportionately at risk. New York State Health Department
data show that 57% of children hospitalized for rat poisoning
are African American, although only 16% of the population in the
state is African American, and 26 % of hospitalized children are
Latino, while Latinos comprise only 12 % of the population.
The NRDC and WEACT complaint points out that EPA ignored evidence
from California that an indicator dye was available and could
be used safely. Syngenta already includes a bittering agent in
their U.S. rodenticide, TALON-G, because it is sold in other countries
where a bittering agent is required. Syngenta touts the product
as the "highest acceptance, lowest-dose rodenticide on the
market." The complaint also notes that some rodenticide manufacturers
have already agreed that dyes are feasible in certain formulations.
"There is no tradeoff between more child poisonings on the
one hand and more rats on the other," said Veronica Eady,
who is general counsel for WEACT.
Sources: Press Release, Groups Sue EPA for Failing to Protect
from Rat Poisons, November 8, 2004, National Resources Defense
http://www.nrdc.org ; EPA Allows Poison Manufacturers To Poison
November 14, 2004, Organic Consumers Association
http://www.organicconsumers.org/school/ratpoison111704.cfm ; Los
Angeles Times , November 11, 2004.