10 Mar 2015

Infant milk threat: What is 1080?

8:34 pm on 10 March 2015

The use of the poison 1080 in New Zealand to control pests such as possums, rats and stoats has long been debated.

1080 pellets

Photo: FOREST AND BIRD

The Department of Conservation says it is "biodegradable, dilutes quickly in water and does not build up in the food chain. The active component of the poison occurs naturally in many plants found in Australia, South America and Africa. These plants evolved the poison as a defence against browsing animals".

Opponents have always questioned the impact it has on other species, the water supply and its efficacy in targeting the aforementioned pests. However, most research has shown the risks are minimal when compared to the successes in helping build native populations. Its use is banned in many countries to protect native mammals.

Its scientific name is sodium fluoroacetate and it has a taste similar to sodium chloride. Its effectiveness against rodents was first reported in 1942.

The Tull Chemical company, based in Alabama, is currently the world's only manufacturer of the poison, which is then turned into pellets here by Animal Control Products (ACP), a Crown-owned company.

The Environmental Protection Agency told The Herald last year that more than 90 per cent of pesticide formulations containing 1080 in New Zealand were processed by ACP. It has a manufacturing site in Whanganui.

The poison's ingredients are highly toxic to mammals, working to inhibit the citric acid cycle. It results in an accumulation of citrate in the blood, depriving cells of energy.

In human the symptoms will appear between 30 minutes and three hours after consumption. They would normally include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, sweating, confusion and agitation.

In case where a significant amount has been consumed cardiac problems develop. Seizures and muscle twitching is also likely. Consciousness will worsen and coma result. There are no recognised treatments if too much is swallowed.