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. Its 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 hasnt been the first time either that rodenticides have faced a perilous future. Most of the chemicals at our disposal are considered to be bio accumulative, persistent and toxic, three words that generally are frowned on in almost every industry and 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 to maintain its inclusion in the catalogue of active materials available to industry pass by just a handful of votes. 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 fall one at a time like dominos, 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. So, 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 arent reliant of 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 the Anticoagulant Rodenticides have had a good crack and turn our backs to them? Absolutely NOT.
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 the 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 therein lies the rub surely? Because 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 well 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 of course goes for any form of chemical intervention, where the only difference in effect between a rodent and an elephant is their body mass.
So, 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 in reality nothing can ever truly be 100% safe. What stops these products both large and small, chemical and physical from becoming potential disasters then?? Well, the answer of course is simple, it is us, or rather it is you who makes these products dependable and secure.
This is the part which is not often considered by the casual observer. Pest Control is not just a case of killing rats in your garden, its 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 our training provide, out shadowed by the bad practises of a few and the ignorance of others. And here we can see the danger that is presented to the products in our arsenal, and how it would seem that we are thrust back to my original statement that we are simply lucky to have these products still available to us.
But it is not luck at all, although it certainly does feel like it.
What it is, is hard work and diligence from all strata within the Pest Management Industry. Manufacturers work tirelessly to liaise with regulatory bodies to ensure that the products are formulated in a such a way that the end products are deemed to be safe and effective. That developments are made to products which means that their presentation and use patterns are robust and well implemented. Trade Bodies and Industry Working Groups work on policy making and good practise documentations. Finally, Professional Pest Management Officers like yourself keep current with your skills, keep well informed to the changes in the law and use the products as they are intended.
All these things and more are what make our luck.
And although you may not think that using your tub of rodenticide on a farm in the middle of nowhere, out of site and mind, has any impact on the global policies being made. It does, it all adds up to paint a picture which will influence how these products and how these chemicals are perceived in the future.
What you all do, gives us the 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.