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article imageEPA tells U.S. cities — it's illegal to use dry ice to kill rats

By Karen Graham     Nov 25, 2016 in Environment
A number of big cities have resorted to using dry ice in their battle with burgeoning rat populations, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says cities must stop the practice because it's illegal under federal law to use dry ice as a rodenticide.
Major cities in the U.S., including New York, Boston, Chicago, and others, began using dry ice several months ago in an effort to reduce rodent populations that had increased considerably after last year's warm winter, and it proved to be very effective. USA Today is reporting that in some cities, there has been a 95 percent reduction in the number of rodents using dry ice.
The rather chilling extermination method involves dropping dry ice, frozen carbon dioxide, into rat burrows and then stuffing the openings with newspapers and dirt. As the dry ice melts, carbon dioxide gas is released, suffocating the rodents, leaving them to decompose in their holes, away from humans.
The dry ice method is efficient and cheap, say officials in cities where it has been tested. Chicago launched its dry ice program in August this year and saw an immediate 60 percent reduction in rat populations. They also say dry ice is very cost effective, costing around 50 cents a pound compared to rat poison pellets that run $57.00 for a 20-pound bucket.
A street rat looking for a meal.
A street rat looking for a meal.
Edal Anton Lefterov
Buddy Christopher, the head of Boston's Inspectional Services Department says the city didn't see dry ice use as a pesticide if using the classic definition of a pesticide, but their dry ice program was halted and the city is applying for an EPA permit to restart the program.
"You go to a nightclub and they’ll serve cocktails in a bucket of dry ice. This is not necessarily one of those logical things, it's a regulatory issue, and we'll respect everything they want us to do," Christopher said.
The EPA says that with any product used as a pesticide or rodenticide, it must be vetted for public safety, highlighting the complicated process of approving the use of pesticide use in this country. And states must enforce federal guidelines if the EPA cites any violations.
The use of dry ice in controlling rodent populations came to the EPA's attention after the news media gave the rat killing method widespread coverage. Many municipalities and school districts contacted the EPA, asking about the legality of using dry ice.
Other consumer groups wanted to know if cities using dry ice had created any guidelines to ensure the product was being safely handled by employees. And then People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stepped into the fray, saying rodents "deserve our protection."
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DNA Info quoted Stephanie Bell, PETA's senior director of cruelty casework. She says rats deserve our protection because of their "capacity to feel pain, fear, loneliness and joy, just as humans do."
Bell isn't convinced suffocation by dry ice or any other method is the answer to eradicating rodents. And she may be right in this respect. "Wild animals of any sort are attracted to places where there's a reliable food supply, and until that changes, the city will always find itself two steps back if it depends on killing," she said.
More about rat populations, big cities, Epa, dry ice, Peta
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