Daily News Archive
From August 17, 2005

NY Court Finds EPA Rules Fail to Protect Children from Rat Poisons
(Beyond Pesticides, August 17, 2005) New York City’s federal court recently ruled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to protect children from exposure to chemical rat poisons (rodenticides). Reported in the press release issued by the Natural Resources Council (NRDC), tens of thousands of children are poisoned by rodenticides every year, and African-American and Latino children suffer disproportionately.

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed in November 2004 by West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) and NRDC in response to EPA’s reversal of the child safety measures, allowing the rodentcide manufacturers to rescind the bittering agent and indicator dye requirements (see Daily News). The groups challenged EPA's regulations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The EPA issued safety regulations in 1998 that would have protected children from the poisons, but it revoked them in 2001 after coming to a "mutual agreement" with chemical manufacturers. New York City federal court Judge Jed Rakoff rejected the agency's reversal, finding that its justification for dropping a key safety measure "lacked even the proverbial 'scintilla' of evidence."

"This is a major victory for children's health -- and for common sense," said Aaron Colangelo, an NRDC attorney. "Parents now will be able to protect their kids and deal with rodent problems in their neighborhoods at the same time. There's no reason why any of our kids should be accidentally poisoned, because it's relatively easy to protect them."

According to Peggy Shephard, executive director of WE ACT, "This court victory marks an important step towards protecting children in communities of color. The basic safety measure required by the court today will protect children from poisoning while still allowing communities to control rats." Studies have found that the safety measures help prevent child poisonings without undermining the effectiveness of rat poisons. A number of leading manufacturers already include a bittering agent in rat poisons sold in the United States.

Millions of pounds of rat poisons are applied nationally every year. In New York City, for example, rat poisons are used heavily in public housing, public schools and city parks. To learn more about rodenticides, see our factsheet. Also see our alternatives factsheet for ideas about least toxic ways to control a rodent problem.