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13 May 2021

Opinion: Apocalypse when? A future without rodenticides

OPINION | PPC103 MAY 2021

In this PPC article, Alex Wade from Wade Environmental asks what would happen if our fears over a ban on rodenticides came to pass.

apocalypse-when-rodenticides-main

Before you roll your eyes and flip past this thinking this is another article beating professional pest management over the head with a stick, then stop. It’s not.

What I want to ask however, is this: what happens if our fears do come to pass? It is, after all, a constant anxiety for our industry.

That fear that one day our luck will run dry and a decision will be made that stops us from being able to use rodenticides. This hasn’t been the first time that rodenticides have faced a perilous future.

Most of the chemicals at our disposal are considered to be “bioaccumulative, persistent and toxic”, three words that are generally frowned upon in almost every industry and by their associated decision-makers.

So much so, that previous votes in the early 2000s on the continued use of rodenticides saw Difenacoum pass a resolution by just a handful of votes, to maintain its inclusion in the catalogue of active materials available to industry.

Pest control without SGARs

If Difenacoum had failed this measure it would have begun a cascade of comparative analysis assessments that could have seen the other second generation anticoagulants (SGARs) fall one at a time like dominoes, potentially causing untold chaos for the pest management industry.

However, the first and second generation anticoagulant rodenticides are not the only forms of chemical control at our disposal. What I mean to say, rather, is not a future without rodenticides, but a future with fewer rodenticides, and is this a manageable situation?

In a nutshell, yes; we have alternative chemical control methods for both rats and mice which aren’t reliant on the mode of actions of anticoagulants and have in their own right been proven to be both reliable and effective.

We have physical control methods such as break-back traps which are evolving rapidly to integrate themselves into smart technologies, an avenue of research and application which promises to deliver some big things within the next couple of years.

But, should this mean therefore that we simply shrug our shoulders, admit that anticoagulant rodenticides have had a good crack and turn our backs to them? Absolutely not.

We can see therefore that this industry walks a constant knife edge. On one side we have the desire from the public to be pest-free and on the other side the distaste associated with the ‘control’ of pests.

Alex Wade, Wade Environmental

They are a fundamental part of our toolkit. When they are used properly, effectively and responsibly they are a phenomenal tool for the control of rodent species.

We can see therefore that this industry walks a constant knife edge. On one side we have the desire from the public to be pest-free and on the other side the distaste associated with the ‘control’ of pests.

And, it is our business therefore to walk this line and manage populations of pests. After we have deployed our skills in proofing, housekeeping and environmental management, there will often come a point where a lethal intervention must be considered. And, there’s the rub, surely?

Heart over head

Policies are not just made on the cold clinical data of technical efficacy, they are also made on emotional reasoning, and something that is lethal must surely be ‘dangerous’. One also must remember that ‘dangerous’ in this context expands beyond the realms of humans.

Break-back traps may be safe for humans to handle (minus some embarrassing hand waving if you manage to put your thumb somewhere exciting when placing them) but certainly, for every animal smaller than a rat, these traps will not discriminate and will still have the potential to be lethal.

The same goes for any form of chemical intervention, where the only difference in effect between a rodent and an elephant is their body mass.

To the average person this can clearly be a concern, especially when these statements are made about these chemicals without any context, compounded further by the fact that nothing can ever truly be 100% safe.

Pest control is not just a case of killing rats in your garden, it’s the skill to not kill everything else in the garden too which is what sets the cost and value of a pest management professional apart from the DIY ‘enthusiast’.

Alex Wade, Wade Environmental

Safe operators = safe rodenticide

What stops these products both large and small, chemical and physical, from becoming potential disasters then? Well, it is us (or rather it is you) who makes these products dependable and secure.

This is the part that is often not considered by the casual observer. Pest control is not just a case of killing rats in your garden, it’s the skill to not kill everything else in the garden too which is what sets the cost and value of a pest management professional apart from the DIY ‘enthusiast’.

Yet the worth of professional pest management is consistently undervalued, whereas the risks associated with the tools at our disposal are still considered to be high. The skills and mitigations that our training provides, can be shadowed by the bad practice of a few and the ignorance of others.

A ‘lucky’ bunch?

We can see the danger that is presented to the products in our arsenal, and how it seems that we are thrust back to my original statement: that we are ‘lucky’ to have these products still available to us.

But it is not luck at all, although it certainly feels like it. What it is, is hard work and diligence from all within the pest management industry.

Manufacturers work tirelessly with regulatory bodies to ensure products are formulated to be deemed to be ‘safe’ and effective. Developments are made to products which means that their presentation and use-patterns are robust and well implemented.

Trade bodies and industry working groups of volunteers work on policymaking and good practice documentation.

Finally, professional pest management officers like yourself keep current with your skills, keep well informed of the changes in the law and use products as they are intended.

All these things, and more, are what make our ‘luck’.And, although you may think that using your tub of rodenticide on a farm in the middle of nowhere, out of sight, has no impact on the global policies being made – it does.

It all adds up to paint a picture that will influence how these products and how these chemicals are perceived in the future.

What you all do gives us positive justifications to continue to use these products. Because, when the day arrives where their use is finally put to another vote, our actions will define what we can use, and ultimately who can use it.

Thought-leading starts with you

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Source: PPC103