How to protect your children and pets from rodent poisons – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

Written by Karley Johnson, Environmental Health

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Wild rats and mice living too close to humans threaten our health. They can contaminate food, spread disease, damage property, and cause electrical fires. It makes sense to keep rodents out of our homes. However, there are safe — and less safe — ways to get rid of them.

Many people’s first instinct is to use rodenticides – also known as rat or mouse baits – to poison the invaders. Unfortunately, abuse and overuse of these toxins are common and can harm children and pets.

Rodenticides are a major risk to children and pets

US poison control centers receive over 10,000 calls each year about children eating rodent venom. Most of these calls are aimed at children under the age of three.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that “if a child under the age of six is ​​hospitalized for pesticide poisoning, it is likely rat poison related. Rat poison is the most common reason for pesticide-related health facility visits in children under the age of six. They are the second leading cause of pesticide-related hospitalizations.” Pets are also commonly poisoned by rodenticides.

Public health response to poisoning

In 2008, the federal government reduced the toxicity of commonly available rodenticides, the kinds you can buy at a store. In 2020, California banned the use of the most toxic types of rodenticides. This prohibition includes their use by professional pest controllers (with limited exceptions). Other federal states are considering similar measures.

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Pros and cons of professional vs. do-it-yourself poison application

Rodent poisons should be avoided as much as possible. If you have a rodent infestation that you have not been able to control with non-toxic methods, your best bet is to consult a pest controller.

If that’s not an option and you use rodent poison yourself, follow these safety precautions:

  • Keep poisons out of the reach of children and pets, e.g. B. in a locked utility cupboard or garden shed.
  • Never keep poisons near food, including pet food.
  • Read and follow the directions on the rodenticide label.
  • Always use bait within a bait station (a lockable box containing the rodent poison).
A small black plastic box used as a rodent baiting station.
A commonly used bait station for rodents

Thanks to federal regulations, the rodent poisons you’re likely to find at hardware stores are usually less toxic than those used by pest controllers. However, since they are not applied by professionals, they are more likely to be misused. That means they still pose a risk to children and pets.

Poisons often used by pest control professionals are particularly potent. Since they can only be used by professionals, there is less chance of misuse. However, they come with their own risks, particularly to wildlife. These poisons remain in the rodent’s body for a long time. If other animals feed on dead rodents, they can ingest the venom and become sick or die.

All rodent poisons, even those used by professionals, carry some risk. Only use rodent poisons as a last resort after trying other methods (see below for some ideas). Remember – some rodent problems may be too difficult to control alone. You may need to hire a licensed pest controller.

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Safer and more effective strategies

To reduce the need for rodent poison and keep rodents out of your home long-term, use the Seal Up, Trap Up, Clean Up method:

  • sealing: Prevent rodents from entering your home – check inside and out for gaps or holes and seal any holes you find. Look for small and large holes – mice will fit through a hole the width of a pencil (1/4 inch or 6mm diameter).
  • stand out: Trap rodents throughout the home to reduce the rodent population.
  • Clean up: If you have mice or rats in or near your home or vehicle, safely dispose of urine, feces, dead rodents, and nesting materials. One of our previous blogs (this site is English only) has more information on how to stay safe while cleaning areas with rodents.

For more information on these methods, visit the CDC’s Rodent website (this website is available in English only).

What to do if your child or pet has ingested poison?

If your child has swallowed poison and collapses or stops breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately. Otherwise, clean up all poison products and call the Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222. Interpretation services available by specifying your language once connected to an operator. Have the poison packaging or the name of the active ingredient ready to tell the poison control officer.

If you suspect your pet has ingested poison, call your veterinarian or nearest animal emergency service immediately. Provide as much information as possible, e.g.

  • Your pet’s weight
  • Day and time of exposure
  • Brand name of Gift
  • Manufacturer
  • active ingredients
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For more informations:

For more information on rodent prevention in Seattle and King County, visit the King County How to Get Rid of Rats and Mice website. We have several factsheets and brochures available in several languages. Residents of the City of Seattle may be eligible for a rodent prevention consultation or rodent prevention kit, which can be ordered here (resources available in the language).

Originally published on 10/26/2022

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