Monday, February 15, 2010

An awful tragedy (and what we can do about it)

Last week began with the terrible news that a 4 year-old girl in Layton, Utah was killed after gas from a powerful rat poison seeped into her home. Two days later, the girl's 15 month-old sister also died in the hospital. Both girls were buried by their family yesterday, on Valentine's Day.

The Friday before the girls became sick, an exterminator spread several times the recommended amount of Fumitoxin, a phosphine-producing rat poison for which there is no known antidote, in the yard around the girls' home to take care of a vole problem. The contractor failed to follow the label for the poison, which listed specific instructions for quantity and appropriate distance from buildings.

As heartbreaking as this story is, it's made even more so by virtue of the fact that it was completely, 100% preventable. Had the contractor chosen one of the many least-toxic alternatives, or even just followed the label instructions, we probably never would have even heard of the Toone family.

The bottom line, though, is that a product this dangerous shouldn't be available for casual use. Given the plethora of safer alternatives that exist, maybe we don't need Fumitoxin at all--many pest control companies have already stopped using it because it is so risky. Unfortunately the current process for restricting or banning a pesticide (or any chemical, for that matter) is convoluted and strongly favors the manufacturer.

Until now, that is. We are on the brink of big changes in our nation's approach to chemical regulation. There is a large movement building across the country to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)--a 30 year-old regulatory device that has never properly worked. While TSCA wouldn't directly change the laws which apply to pesticides (i.e. FIFRA), it will almost certainly lead to the reform of those laws.

Check out this beautiful video highlighting the need to improve the way we regulate ALL chemicals for the health of our children, ourselves and the planet. From there you can sign a petition, tell a friend, write a letter to your congressperson--whatever you want to do to show support for this long overdue reform.

Our hearts go out to the family of those two little girls, even as we continue working for a safer and healthier future.

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