Who will rid me of these rats?

15 December 2017

That was the cry of the Mayor of Hamelin in 1284, when the German town was infested with vermin.

He turned to a mysterious pied piper for help, but it didn’t go well. The rats disappeared, but so did all the town’s children, when the mayor refused to pay the piper’s fee.

Today when we have rat or mouse infestations around the house we generally turn to products sold at the local hardware store or supermarket. “We want these treatments to go well for everyone except the mice and rats,” says the Environmental Protection Authority’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

The EPA is responsible for approving hazardous substances such as these, and sets conditions for their safe use.

“We want to emphasise that these products – and there are a wide range of them – are by their nature harmful. They may be sold as pellets, pastes or in blocks. All need to be used with care. They pose health risks to users, children and anyone who comes into contact with them. They can also be harmful to domestic pets, other animals, birds and the environment,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

To remind householders about how to stay safe with these products, the EPA has issued a Caution Notice, setting out recommended safety measures. “As a proactive regulator, the EPA wants to ensure consumers have good information about the safe use of potentially harmful products we approve,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.

The Caution Notice provides information about how to handle, use and store these products, how to dispose of them safely, and what to do if accidental exposure occurs.

“The safest way to apply these products is by using a bait station, which is a container that holds the bait, making it accessible to the target rodents but preventing children from being able to touch it directly. A bait station with a “floor” also prevents the poison from coming into contact with the ground, reducing the chance of environmental contamination,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.

“It is completely possible to use these products safely, provided all precautions are taken,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.