Monday, July 20, 2009

Sodium Fluoroacetate Review

This weekend I was working on an article for the Journal of Hazmat Transportation on HR 2868. As part of that work I was taking a detailed look at the wording of that legislation as found in the Part 1 of House Report 111-205. It was then that I found one of those tiny amendments to a serious bill that cause so many problems for those in the regulated community: §3(h) Review Of Designation Of Sodium Fluoroacetate As A Substance Of Concern, found on page 20 of House Report 111-205. Sodium Fluoroacetate Let me start out by saying that Sodium Fluoroacetate is one nasty chemical. It is poisonous, but only by ingestion. It is a registered rodenticide and is manufactured in this country as ‘1080’ and has been used to kill coyotes . It is a naturally occurring compound found in the leaves of many plants growing in Australia, Brazil and Africa according to Wikipedia. Many animal advocate organizations have opposed its use because it causes convulsions and other visible neurological symptoms prior to death. A fatal dose is only 10 mg/kg of body weight for humans, thus only 820 mg could be lethal to a human weighing 180-lbs but it must be ingested or injected to be lethal. Fortunately it is a solid, so it hardly qualifies as a weapon of mass effect. There are no other ingestion-only toxics included on the current list of chemicals of interest, and it is unlikely that this chemical was even considered for inclusion on that list when the Department started working on developing the list of chemicals of concern Manipulating the Committee System There has been a move to ban the manufacture and sale of this chemical for a number of years. Congressman DeFazio (D,OR) has introduced bills twice (HR 4567 – 109th Congress and HR 4775 – 110th Congress), but they have never received a hearing, much less a floor vote. Interestingly, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D,CA) was a co-sponsor of HR 4775. The §3(h) provision was not in the original version of the bill introduced in the House. It was certainly not discussed in the Committee mark-up sessions. Which means it either must have been included in Chairman Thompson’s amendment in the form of a substitute, or it had to have been added by Committee staff. According to the statement made by Chairman Thompson, and verified by Ranking Member King, made on the first day of the mark-up, the two of them reviewed a number of non-controversial amendments and agreed to roll them into one amendment that was subsequently offered by the Chairman. Since ‘1080’ is manufactured in the district of one of the members of the Committee, Rogers(R,AL), it is unlikely that this would have been considered by Mr. King or Chairman Thompson to be a non-controversial amendment. So, how did this provision get in the legislation? I can only see two possibilities. First it was buried in an amendment that was okayed by Thompson and King; in which case a member of the committee played games with the process to pursue a personal agenda. Second it was added by a member of the staff as part of the routine ‘cleaning up’ of a piece of complicated legislation; a clear usurpation of legislative authority. In either case, the provision should be removed from the proposed legislation.

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