Keeping City Children Safe from Rat Poisons | National Poison Prevention Month

By Marcia Anderson

Rodenticides are an important tool for controlling mice and rats around the home; however, the use of these products has been associated with accidental exposures to thousands of children each year.

Minor mouse infestations are often handled by consumers applying over-the-counter (OTC) mouse bait. Typically, these are casual applications of simply putting the bait in areas showing mouse activity. Moreover, mice are notorious for moving (translocating) pellet-style baits and depositing them in a variety of areas away from the placement site.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are generally applied in the form of pelletized baits or bait blocks which are odorless and tasteless. They cause death in rodents after repeated feedings resulting in accumulation to a lethal internal dose. Among rodenticides, the super warfarin rodenticides are 100x more toxic than warfarin rodenticides.

A newly designed, EPA approved, child proof and tamper proof mouse trap

Young children are especially vulnerable to exposure from rodenticides, as they are most often placed low to the ground, at the same altitude as the play, potentially adding to their increased susceptibility to exposure of laid baits and traps. In children, rodenticide exposure generally occurs via ingestion as most children obtain the poison from the site where bait traps are placed.  It is the loose baits that have been of great concern to health care providers, poison control and emergency personnel.

Nationally there are about 90,000 calls to Poison Control Centers concerning pesticide exposure annually. Of these, 20% (about 19,000) of those calls are for Rodenticides, with over 15,000 of Rodenticide calls (86%) for children under 6 years old ingesting rodenticides.

It appears that only a small number of exposed children experience medical symptoms or suffer adverse health effects, as a result of their exposure, however, these exposures often cause much concern and unnecessary alarm among parents. The problem is the perception that a “poisoning event” has occurred and the consequences are emotional and time consuming for all parties.

The EPA has addressed this situation by significantly reducing the likelihood of rodenticide exposure to children by taking the most toxic rat baits, the second generation “super” warfarin pesticides, off of the consumer market and requiring child proof / tamper proof packaging for all first generation warfarins that will be available to consumers.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.