Regulatory Stories

It would be fun to accumulate a book of stories about regulation.  My book would be about what a messy complex necessary business this is.

For example, the story of a friend who’s contractor disappeared halfway thru the remodelling job.   When he got another guy to take over the building inspector insisted they remove the dry wall.  The wiring had not been inspected.

Today’s example:  A number of cities started using dry ice to kill rats in their burrows.  It was very cheap and very effective.  Soon, the media reported that the EPA had stepped in to say, “Ah guys?  That’s not an approved pesticide.”  So they stopped.   The media accounts all had this just the facts quality about ’em, but I sensed the underlying narrative was “Yo reader, ain’t regulation lame!”

I noticed story since I use dry-ice when I catch a squirrel trying to eat my house.  It is the recommended technique.

A few days ago New York city started again.  The cities pushed to get the technique approved.  But the story I read had a telling detail.  Apparently what was approved was not dry ice, but rather a product called “Rat Ice” made by some Bell Labs.

Which raises the question in my mind.  Who complained to the regulators?  In New York their original trial run was a park where the poured the dry ice into 60 burrows; so maybe the park’s users complained that the entire park was smoking.

A cynical observer would quickly guess that the rat poison vendors complained.

The Bell Labs is not the famous research laboratory in New Jersey.  Nah, it’s a firm that sells classic rat poisons, baits, and traps all over the planet.  They even have a registered trademark tag line: “The World Leader in Rodent Control Technology®”.  They haven’t gotten around to marketing Rat Ice on their web site.

To me the proof of this is this bit from an article from USA Today that appeared back when the flurry of media reports about how the EPA was telling the cities to stop using dry ice:

Ruth Kerzee, executive director of the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, said her organization raised concerns with regional EPA officials and the city of Chicago about the new rat-killing method.

Kerzee, whose organization promotes minimizing the use of pesticides, said while dry ice is less toxic than some conventional pesticides it remains unclear what, if any, guidelines cities created to ensure the product is being safely handled by personnel.

“We think it could be a sea changer, a great thing to be able to use, but it does need to be vetted and go through the process, so that we don’t end up in a situation where we throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Kerzee said.

The National Pest Management Association, a trade group representing private pest control companies, also inquired with EPA and the Illinois Department of Public Health about the use of dry ice after Chicago launched its pilot and was told it could not be legally used as rodenticide, said Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the association. The group published a message to members in its newsletter last month that “any use of CO2/dry ice to control rodents would be a violation of federal law.”

Fredericks said the industry association is not calling for the EPA to permit dry ice as a rodenticide. “It’s not one of our priorities right now,” he said.

There is a joke to be made here about inventing the better mousetrap and “It would be a shame if some innovation where to upset that nice business you have there.”

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