Note from Fluoride Action Network:
Molecular structure of highly toxic Sodium fluoroacetate (known as 1080). For more info, albeit outdated, go to

The controversial poison 1080 has a history of causing division.

What is 1080?

The toxin Sodium Fluoroacetate, typically called 1080, was first approved for use in New Zealand in 1964 to control introduced pests.

It is normally used to target possums, but is also used for rats, mice, stoats and rabbits.

THREAT: 1080 is used to poison possum, rats and stoat.

THREAT: 1080 is used to poison possum, rats and stoat.

When applied aerially, the poison is mixed into carrot or cereal baits. In bait stations it can be used as cereal bait, paste or a gel.

What does it do?

The toxin occurs naturally in some plants, particularly in Western Australia and South Africa, where it seems to protect the plants against browsing animals.

It kills by interfering with energy metabolism, which leads to breathing problems and death by heart and central nervous system failure.

It is lethal to many animals if enough of the toxin is consumed. Most animals will recover from a non-lethal dose.

Why is it controversial?

Although 1080 is also used in ground-based control, such as in bait stations, aerial drops of 1080 have elicited the greatest concern.

The poison is highly toxic to deer and dogs and is one of the reasons its use draws ire from some in the hunting community.

In recent years a deer repellent has been added to baits in some areas, particularly where requested by local hunters.

Some native birds have been killed as a by-product of 1080 operations.

Some communities have expressed concern over aerial 1080 operations near waterways.

Where is it produced?

The 1080 toxin is manufactured in Alabama, in the United States. There is only one manufacturer of 1080 baits in New Zealand, based in Wanganui, which converts the raw product shipped from Alabama.

A second company, based in Canterbury, has stated it intends to produce 1080 bait at a factory in Rolleston.

Who uses it?

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report in 2008 said New Zealand accounted for about 80 per cent of the global use of 1080.

Many other countries do not use 1080 because they have native land mammals, such as coyotes, which would be affected by the toxin. New Zealand does not have native land mammals except for bats, which are restricted to small geographic areas.

The United States has a federal ban on 1080 use to protect coyotes.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and TBfree NZ are the biggest users of 1080 in New Zealand, followed by regional councils.

In 2013, the EPA reported that aerial 1080 was used over 448,210 hectares: 298,397ha by TBfree NZ and 126,287ha by DOC.

Last year DOC ramped up its use of aerial 1080 in response to heavy beech seedfall which was expected to cause high numbers of rats and mice. The Battle for our Birds campaign targeted 550,000ha mostly in the South Island.

What is its future?

In June 2011 the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright published a report evaluating the use of 1080.

She concluded that not only should the use of 1080 continue to protect New Zealand forests – but it should be used more often.

“It is seldom that I come to such a strong conclusion at the end of an investigation. But the possums, rats and stoats that have invaded our country will not leave of their own accord.”

The clean green brand that New Zealand identifies with is at risk unless more is done to protect native animals and forests, Wright said.

Wright said 1080 is the only poison that is used aerially to control possums, rats and stoats on public conservation land on the mainland, with the exception of brodifacoum in a very small number of cases.

“Almost all aerial 1080 operations use cereal baits, dropping about two kilograms of bait per hectare,” she said.

Wright concluded 1080 leaves residues for short times in the environment – with one exception – it can linger in carcasses of poisoned animals for months in cold and dry conditions.

1080 can also cause by-kill of both native and introduced animals, Wright said, and kills different animals in different ways.

However, it’s not the “most inhumane pest control poison”, she said.

In 2008 the EPA released a five-year reassessment of 1080 and concluded its use should continue but with greater controls and monitoring of operations.

In the September 2014 general election, the Ban 1080 party received 5,113 party votes (0.21 per cent of the total vote).

New Zealand First has proposed a 1080 moratorium.

What are the alternatives?

Several other poisons are used in New Zealand for pest control but are not as effective as 1080.

Cyanide can be used to kill possums and rodents, but not stoats. Because stoats are carnivores they will not eat bait pellets, 1080 only kills them because they feed on poisoned carcasses.

Brodifacoum is also used on a smaller scale, and is often used by households in the form of Talon. It persists in the environment for a longer time than 1080 and can cause more unwanted by-kill as a result.

Trapping and shooting is generally considered to be useful only over small areas and not cost-effective over more rugged backcountry.

Biological control options have stalled due to lack of progress.

What is the risk to humans?

There is one record of a hunter dying in the 1960s after eating a 1080-laced jam bait (which was later banned).

An adult would have to eat about seven cereal baits to be lethal, although one bait could seriously harm a child.

1080 residues have never been recorded in public water drinking supplies and no human deaths from drinking affected water or food have been recorded.

The Ministry of Health sets a drinking water standard of two parts of 1080 per billion parts of water, which has never been breached. At that level, a 60kg adult would need to drink about 60,000 litres of water in one sitting to consume a fatal dose.

The highest record of 1080 in water was nine parts per billion.

To consume a fatal dose from an animal that had died from 1080, an adult would need to eat at least 37kg of meat from that animal.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has not detected 1080 in any commercially-produced foods since testing began in 1999.

*Original article online at