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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1950 No. 248 - Apr 4 1950
Attorney General Smith Troy


Department of Health has no authority to make rules regulating use of rodenticides.

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                                                                    April 4, 1950

J. A. Kahl, M.D.
Acting Director
State Department of Health
Smith Tower
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 248

Dear Dr. Kahl:

            This is in answer to your letter of March 20, 1950, in which you requested our opinion as follows:

            "Does the State Board of Health or any other agency have power to promulgate rules governing the use of rodenticide '1080' which is alleged to be so lethal as to constitute a danger to human life?"

            Our conclusions are summarized as follows:

            1. The State Board of Health is not authorized to adopt rules concerning use of rodenticides.

            2. The State Department of Agriculture and the State College of Washington are authorized to forbid the use of rodenticides which are detrimental to public health and to supervise the use of rodenticides in the state.


            You advise that the State Board of Health has become cognizant of a possible menace to public safety by the widespread use of a new rodenticide bearing the brand name "1080" and believes rules should be enforced to insure the use of "1080" in a safe manner.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The jurisdiction of the State Department of Health is limited to the duties and powers authorized by statute.  The law defining the general powers and duties of the State Board of Health is section 1, chapter 114, Laws of 1901 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 6001).  The pertinent portion of that section reads as follows:

            "The state board of health shall have supervision of all matters relating to the preservation of the life and health of the people of the state.  The board shall have supreme authority in matters of quarantine, and may declare and enforce it when none exists, may modify, relax or abolish it when it has been established.  The board may have special or standing orders or regulations for the prevention of the spread of contagious or infectious diseases, and for governing the receipt and conveyance of remains of deceased persons, and such other sanitary matters as admit of and may best be controlled by universal rule.  * * *"

            The above is not a general grant of power in all matters touching health and preservation of life, but is limited to those matters set out in the statute; namely, disease, sanitation, and dead bodies.  Neither here nor elsewhere can we find any authority for the Department of Health to promulgate rules pertaining to the use of rodenticides.

            It appears that this matter can be adequately handled by the State Department of Agriculture and the extension service of Washington State College.

            The Department of Agriculture is charged under chapter 230, Laws of 1941 (2787-4 to 2787-22 Rem. Supp. 1941) with the licensing and control of all rodenticides sold in the state and has power to prohibit the use of those which are dangerous to life and property.  The State College has supervision over rodent control on private lands by virtue of chapter 506, Laws of 1921 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 2788 to 2800) and over operations of agriculture pest districts under chapter 425, Laws of 1919 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 2801 to 2809).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            These laws are comprehensive and cover the entire field of rodent control and afford ample protection to public health and safety in so far as legislative fiat can do so.  We feel certain the Director of the Department of Agriculture will be pleased to receive any information and suggestions you may have, and to cooperate with you in recurring protection to the people of the state from possible dangers resulting from improper use of rodenticide "1080."

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General