Aluminium phosphide, the pesticide suspected of having caused the death of two-year-old Habiba Hisham in Sharjah on Sunday, remains on sale in Abu Dhabi under the popular name "Bomb".
Since 2009 the substance has been banned nationwide for household and personal use, its sale restricted to licensed operators. But a reporter from The National was able to buy some for Dh75 yesterday from a licensed tobacco shop on Electra Street in the capital.
The shopkeeper insisted he usually sold it only to people who were known to him or had come to him via someone he knew. He asked only how many people lived with The National's reporter. On being told the reporter lived alone, he handed the chemical over.
To use "Bomb", the shopkeeper said it should be poured on to paper and then spread on the ground. The area should then be vacated for at least 24 hours.
It was a different story in Dubai, though, where all the shops visited by The National refused to sell aluminium phosphide. Some stocked it but said it was available only to pest control professionals.
"We stopped selling this product two or three years ago," said Rafi, the manager of Al Madina Garden in Al Satwa. "The municipality visited our shop and told us that it is very dangerous for customers to use on their own and anyone found selling it would be fined Dh50,000."
It was "only for specialised pesticide companies," he said.
Next door at National Flowers, the situation was the same. "You will not find this product anywhere in Dubai," said Gulshan, the store's manager. "It has been banned a while ago and we are not allowed to sell it to regular customers because it is highly toxic, it can kill them if inhaled."
All seven plant and pesticide shops visited in Al Satwa emphasised that aluminium phosphide was extremely dangerous for use at home and strongly advised against using it.
Pest control companies agreed. "Aluminium phosphide combined with oxygen becomes phosphine gas, which is very toxic," said Mr Dinesh R, the operations manager of National Pest Control.
The company does use the chemical for fumigation of insects found in stored products such as flour and rice, but under strict conditions.
"It's usually used on beetles but we never fumigate an apartment or a villa," said Mr Dinesh. Buying it requires a fumigation licence as well as a pest control licence.
"Anybody using the chemical has to be licensed by the Dubai Municipality," Mr Dinesh said. "An application form must be filled out with the municipality stating the intention of use and the location before approval."
Yet many people are not aware of its risks, and still request it.
"People always ask about it because they think it's a good solution for the insects they find at home," said Omar Raja, the manager of Akkad Pest Control Services in Al Muraqqabat. "But it is designed for warehouses and farms, not inside the premises because it spreads out to all the rooms and sticks to the walls and furniture, you can't wash it off."
As a result, the company does not use it, although it has the required licence. "We use regular pesticide, there is no need to use aluminium phosphide, because it's so dangerous and we always advise people against it."