The California Rodenticides Ban: What You Need To Know About Using Rat Poison
Find out what you need to know regarding the proposed rodenticides bans (AB 1788) including the status of the bill AB 1788 from the California Legislative Information website.
How will it impact your community? Why are rodenticides so dangerous? What are the exact laws? What states will follow suit? We cover it all in our quick rundown on the legislature.
What Are Rodenticides?
Rodenticides are pesticides designed to kill rodents. However, the poisons used are not specific to just rats and mice. Rats, mice, other rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks and porcupines are all potential victims of rodenticides. In fact, because rodents are mammals, rodenticide is just as harmful to other mammals like wildlife, pets, and people.
How Are Rodenticides Classified?
There are many varieties of rodenticide but they are generally classified as either anticoagulant or non-anticoagulant. Anticoagulant rodenticides work by interfering with animals blood clotting abilities. After consuming a lethal dose of poison, the animal will die from internal bleeding complications. Non-anticoagulant rodenticides work by a variety of means, having toxic effects on different organs and to varying degrees.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are further divided into either first generation or second generation. First generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) require several consecutive feedings for a lethal dose of poison to accumulate. Currently, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists three registered FGARs including warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone.
Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) were developed to combat resistance to first-generation compounds naturally occurring in mice and rats. As a result, SGARs are exponentially more toxic and lethal dosing often occurs in one feeding. The EPA’s registered list of SGARs includes brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum.
The main difference in lethality is how the body handles exposure to these poisons. FGARs are more easily, and therefore quickly excreted from the body. This means without continuously consuming the poison, it is difficult for a lethal dose to accumulate. However, SGARs are very difficult for the body to excrete and therefore repeated feedings are not necessary to acquire a lethal dose. The potential for single dose lethality of SGARs makes them extremely dangerous and high risk for the potential of secondary poisoning.
Why Ban Rodenticides?
Rodenticides are highly effective at dealing with rodent invaders and infestations. The problem is that the deadly efficiency is not restricted to rats and mice alone. Secondary poisoning of non-target wildlife, pets, and humans is a growing problem. When rodents feed on poison bait two things occur to create unintentional exposure. The rodents will often remove pieces of the bait when feeding. This poison may then be distributed anywhere along the rodents path of travel including inside homes where children have access, through backyards where pets have access, or throughout the environment where other wildlife have access. Anticoagulant rodenticides are persistent and can be detected in water, soil and even snails.
In addition to environmental persistence, these poisons persist in the bodies of animals that have consumed them. That means when a poisoned rat is eaten by a fox, the poison then persists within that fox. As the fox repeatedly consumes it’s easy or presumably free meals, it inevitably accumulates enough poison for a lethal dose and meets the same fate as the rats. This issue is common to all predatory and scavenging animals consuming prey exposed to rodenticides.
Rodenticide secondary poisoning to mammalian predators, birds of prey and scavenging animals is a leading environmental concern. The predatory animals are a natural form of pest control yet, by hunting and consuming rodent prey, the predators themselves fall victim to the poison. The downstream effects of secondary poisoning are a depleted pool of natural predators that would otherwise keep the rodent population in check. Some of the wildlife affected in California includes skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, hawks, eagles, and owls.
What Is The Law?
As of July 01, 2014, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) reclassified SGARs so that only licensed pest control professionals can access and use these compounds. This means public consumers are unable to purchase rodenticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum.
Following the reclassification by the DPR, the people of California worked to create Assembly Bill #2657 (AB2657) which became California law on September 19, 2014. Under AB2657 the use of any pesticide containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum is prohibited in a “wildlife habitat” area. “Wildlife habitat” areas are defined as any state park, state wildlife refuge, or state conservancy. This bill, however, does not apply to agricultural activities or supersede any federal agency.
In support of the environment, the people of California have currently put forward Assembly Bill #1788 (AB1788) to be the first state to completely ban SGARs, and ban FGARs on state-owned land. This bill would build on the groundwork laid by AB2657 and create the “California Ecosystems Protection Act of 2019.” Under this new act, the prohibition of pesticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum outlined in AB2657 would expand to include the entire state and, FGARs (rodenticides containing warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone) would also be prohibited from use within state-owned land.
AB1788 has passed the first two committees of approval and is now awaiting the final committee’s approval to become California law. If approved, no pesticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum may be used anywhere in California. Additionally, all “wildlife habitat” areas would be restricted from all first and second generation anticoagulant rodenticides. As a result, the only anticoagulant rodenticides permissible within California will be first generation compounds containing warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone provided the area is not within a “wildlife habitat” where all anticoagulant rodenticides will be prohibited.
Current (as of September 19, 2014):
All of the USA
- Pesticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum are prohibited for use except by licensed pest control officers.
Only in California
- Pesticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum are prohibited for use by anyone within “wildlife habitat” (state park, state wildlife refuge, or state conservancy) areas. Exemptions apply to agricultural purposes and federal agencies.
- Pesticides containing warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone are not under any restrictions or prohibitions.
Potential change (TBD summer/fall 2019)
Only in California
- Pesticides containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, or difenacoum are prohibited for use by anyone within the entire state. Exemptions apply to agricultural activities and government employees in compliance with Section 106925 of the Health and Safety Code, who uses pesticides for the protection of public health.
- Pesticides containing warfarin, chlorophacinone, and diphacinone are prohibited for use by anyone on any state-owned property. Exemptions apply to agricultural activities and federal agencies.
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