SALT LAKE CITY — Federal officials have moved quickly to clamp down on the use of potent rodent-killing pesticides after one was linked to the deaths of two Utah girls this year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said aluminum and magnesium fumigants can no longer be used near homes. The agency added other regulations about where they can be used outside and what kinds of warnings must be posted when the fumigants are applied. EPA officials said Thursday they had planned to review the pesticides in the coming years as part of normal procedures.
"Obviously this tragedy in Utah kicked us into high gear," said Marty Monell, EPA's deputy director in the office of pesticide programs.
Four-year-old Rebecca Toone and her 15-month-old sister, Rachel, died in February after an exterminator treated their yard in Layton with poison-laced pellets used to kill rodents. Investigators said they think toxic phosphine gas from the pellets seeped into the home and sickened the girls.
The Utah Medical Examiner's Office said both girls had elevated levels of phosphorous and lung damage "consistent with inhaling a harmful substance," according to a statement issued this week by the Layton Police Department.
Aluminum and magnesium phosphide fumigants are primarily used to battle bugs in grain silos and other agricultural operations. Less frequently, they're used to kill underground rodents.
The new rules, which went into effect Wednesday, ban the use of phosphine fumigants near residences, nursing homes, school buildings, hospitals or day care centers. They can be used to kill rodents only in agricultural areas, orchards, golf courses, cemeteries and other outdoor areas where people don't live.