Rat poison maker challenges rule restricting sales

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The manufacturer of a popular rat poison is suing California over a new regulation that would prevent consumers from buying many types of pesticides for at-home use because they can harm pets and wildlife.

Reckitt Benckiser, a major producer of health and home products, including d-CON rodent poison, filed a lawsuit in San Diego on Friday against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

The lawsuit argues that the state agency overstepped its authority earlier this month when it classified some consumer pesticides as restricted materials and ordered stores to remove them from shelves by July 1.

“Pest control is integral to public health in California,” the company’s attorneys wrote in the complaint. “Before DPR eliminates consumer access to the most affordable and effective rodent control available, it must establish that there is substantial evidence supporting the need for the regulation adopted.”

The new regulation applies to all pesticide products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, or difethialone - chemicals that interfere with blood clotting. The substances, called second-generation anticoagulants, essentially cause the animals that ingest them to bleed excessively.

The regulation has been hailed by advocates like Earthjustice, a public interest law firm representing a number of environmental conservation groups pushing for a federal ban on the rat poisons.

Reckitt Benckiser knows that California’s bold decision to take d-CON off the shelves is a preview of things to come in other states,” said Greg Loarie, an Earthjustice attorney.

The pesticide regulation department says the rule is necessary because the substances pose a danger to pets and wildlife.

Charlotte Fadipe, an agency spokeswoman, has said that only pest-control companies and trained professionals with state certifications should be able to purchase poisons containing second-generation anticoagulants.

The danger lies in other animals, including family pets, potentially eating a rodent that’s ingested the restricted pesticides, she said.

Some species that have been harmed by the poisons include the barn owl, bobcat, coyote, raccoon and endangered San Joaquin kit fox, Fadipe said.

“This is a practical, sensible regulation that goes a long way to protecting our wildlife,” said Brian Leahy, the agency’s director.

He says the restricted poisons can contain “some pretty powerful chemistry” and stopping their sales will reduced effects to pets and other animals.

In its complaint, Reckitt Benckiser claims the pesticide regulation department violated the law by not giving the public proper notice or opportunity to comment on the rule. It also says the agency failed to study reasonable alternatives and conduct an environmental impact report on the new rule, including what effect rat poisons that don’t contain the restricted chemicals would have on wildlife.

“We remain concerned that this decision will result in the increased use of alternative products which contain a powerful neurotoxin with no known antidote in the case of accidental exposure,” Tony Brand, a spokesman for d-CON rodent poison, said in a statement.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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