What Does It Mean and Is It Enough? 

As of July 21, 2021, a controversial 18-month ban on second-generation rodenticides was enacted by British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment without extending forewarning to pest control companies and other affected industries. The move has been received as bold and met with polarizing opinions from industry and the public.

“Most of the rodenticides used today are anticoagulant compounds that interfere with blood clotting and cause death from excessive bleeding. Deaths typically occur between four days and two weeks after rodents begin to feed on the bait.” (SOURCE: Restrictions on Rodenticide Products | U.S. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/rodenticides/restrictions-rodenticide-products)

What Motivated the Ban?

In retrospect, the ban has been in the works for a while. Local organizations such as the OWL Rehabilitation Society and grassroots movements such as Rodenticide Free BC have been collecting data on the use of rodenticides and lobbying the government for years.

Broadly, the ban was driven by two main factors.

  1. There is little evidence proving rodenticides have a meaningful and long-term impact on micro and macro-rodenticide populations and their associated problems.
  1. There is mounting evidence of the environmental degradation caused by the mass use of rodenticides.

While the order is in place, the Ministry is conducting a scientific review to make recommendations for future use of SGARs in B.C.

What Are Second-Generation Rodenticides (SGARs)?

SGARs are a commercial class of pesticides registered for use in Canada for rodent control by certified pest control operators and farmers. SGARs are poisonous baits containing any of the following ingredients:

  • Brodifacoum
  • Bromadiolone
  • Difethialone

These ingredients are highly toxic, causing death by internal bleeding. Building off of the classic rodenticide warfarin (a first-gen poison), SGARs were developed and implemented worldwide due to the potential to deliver a lethal dose with just one or two doses. What achieves this effect is the SGAR’s extremely destructive impact on the body combined with the long-term bioaccumulation inside the animal tissue.

Are First-Generation Rodenticides Safer? 

First-generation anticoagulants include any developed before 1970 and are primarily based on Chlorpophacinone, diphacinone, and warfarin. The main difference between these and SGARs is the level of toxicity and the amount of time it takes to expel the compounds from the body. Essentially, first gens take multiple doses over many days to be effective, while SGARs can be lethal after only one dose.

So, while first gens are considered safer due to their lesser impact on the environment, bio-accumulation to a lethal dose can happen quickly, and the result of which is just as severe as with SGARs, a slow death via internal bleeding.

Are Pest Control Companies Being Held to This Standard? 

While the Ministry’s move has been decisive and communicated clearly to all involved entities, the real action on the ground has been left to pest control companies and applicators as well as the public, their customers. The pest control industry does have a governing body here in B.C. However, there are no meaningful efforts to audit non-essential properties to ensure SGARs are removed and alternatives implemented in their place.

The reality is that hundreds of thousands of properties will still have boxes being filled with poison repeatedly, and the Ministry and the rest of us can only hope that SGARs are being used legally.

What Will Pest Control Companies Use Instead of SGARs?

Most companies will probably fall into one of three classes following the ban:

    1. Many will replace SGARs with first-generation poisons such as warfarin.
    2. Some may take the opportunity to transition these properties away from rodenticides altogether.
    3. Some will fail to make the required changes to their programs and continue to use SGARs until they are forced to do otherwise.

“It is not enough,” says Joe Abercrombie, President of Humane Solutions, Western Canada’s leader in sustainable wildlife management.

“For-profit pest control companies should not be allowed to dictate which situations can allow for SGARs or even poison contracts in general. Every single commercial property in the lower mainland has black boxes full of poison, there is no due diligence to ensure the program is necessary in the first place, nor if the correct chemicals and practices are being used. The industry has devolved to address every pest control issue with a blind, recurring poison contract sold as ‘management’ or ‘due diligence’. The reality is that these companies are mandated to convert as many wildlife conflicts as possible into sources of recurring revenue, and they do this through rodenticides.”

What Does This Mean for Your Property?

If your property is not on the list of approved essential services, you should send a request to your pest control company to provide information on your current program:

    • The number of rodenticide stations.
    • Their locations.
    • What rodenticide is currently being used.
    • If it is legal considering the new ban.
    • If the program requires adjustment, what are the steps forward?

Are These Poisons Really That Bad?

Yeah, they are. 20% of our global food supply is believed to be consumed or contaminated by rodents, and the cost of control and resource/infrastructure loss globally is in the tens of billions. Globally, we have allowed multinational corporations to push an industry standard that is not just environmentally degrading but has proven relatively useless when considering rodent problems on a macro scale.

There are very few scenarios in human/rodent history where an infestation has been successfully controlled in the long term with rodenticides. Simply put, we have a multi-billion-dollar global problem that affects millions of people and countless other species, and we have yet to stop pouring billions down the drain in ineffective control methods.

Whether you value efficiency, economics, ethics, and or the environment, rodenticides have been proven to miss the mark across the board.

The “Integrated” and “Essential” Loopholes 

Undoubtedly, the biggest failure to effectively control pesticides and their impact is allowing the for-profit companies to decide which problem is “severe” enough to warrant SGARs and other detrimental methods.

Integrated Pest Management guidelines communicate a clear mandate to do everything BUT rely on rodenticides, essentially, and only use them as a last resort and for a finite amount of time. However, there is not much “integrated” about the standard pest control contract. The industry has collectively devolved the base response to a pest control conflict to be a default, never-ending poison program with a little-to-no focus on mitigating resources, structural entry points, or anything else that offers the chance at a systemic result. The majority of companies claim an Integrated Pest Management approach, but the actions on the ground prove a direct default to recurring rodenticide programs.

Pest control companies compete to win your loyalty, then attempt to generate as much profit as they can from your wildlife conflict for as long as possible. Similar to the IPM guidelines, the “essential services” classification will leave too much room for pest control applicators to blindly apply poison as a default. Whether poisons are used should be dictated by the actual evidence on the ground and the state of the property, not by a yes/no question of whether the business handles food.

The reality is that most businesses and properties can see an overnight, permanent change to their pest control problems by focusing on the root problems:

  • What are they?
  • Why are they here?
  • How are they getting in?
  • What are they eating?

Mitigating these factors ultimately achieves the holy grail of pest control: lowering your property’s carrying capacity for the species. From there, deal with the individuals still in conflict and focus your budget on professional monitoring and common-sense response when needed.

According to Joe Abercrombie, “You can’t prove the efficacy of delayed onset rodenticides. The rodents may or may not eat it, and may or may not die after. At the end of the month you are not provided with results, the program continues and you stick with it because you are now afraid of the consequence of removing it. All the while you’re money is being directed at (possibly) treating the symptom of your problem, not the root cause. Our model was developed in direct response to this industry standard.”

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The Humane Solutions team helping a local barred owl escape a constuction site

How You Can Get Action on Your Property

If you are concerned about the pest control practices on your commercial or multi-residential property and are not feeling supported or heard, please submit your information on our Report Pest Activity page and we will do our best to look into the matter on your behalf.


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