SHARJAH // Police investigating the death of a toddler poisoned by an illegal pesticide have arrested seven men accused of running an unlicensed pest-control company.
The seven Bangladeshis turned their flat into a makeshift office and factory to mix the banned chemicals that killed the little girl and left her brother seriously ill, police say.
Habiba Hisham, 2, died and her brother Abdul Rahman, 6, is in a serious condition in intensive care after they were poisoned by aluminium phosphide from a flat opposite their home in the Umm Tarafa area of Sharjah.
Blood samples from Abdul Rahman showed he had been exposed to the banned chemical. He is expected to remain in intensive care for at least another four days.
Police and forensic experts who visited the children’s home after they were taken to hospital noticed a strong smell coming from the flat opposite. “They suspected it might be a chemical that is used illegally as a pesticide,” said Abdul Kadir Amiri, head of the forensic laboratory at Sharjah Police,
Officers entered the flat, rented by an Asian family who were out of the country, and found 26 aluminium phosphide tablets used to kill rodents and insects. They then tracked down the two men who had used the chemical in the flat.
They led a CID team accompanied by experts in chemicals to their home near by, which they shared with the five other men. The house had been turned into an office and unlicensed factory for mixing, selling and trading chemicals.
The investigation team also found large quantities of materials used to spray pesticides, and business cards advertising the unlicensed company’s services.
“They knew they were dealing with dangerous chemicals and police found all protective measures taken for themselves,” said Col Jihad Sahoo, director of Sharjah Police CID.
“Police also found several bills from their previous customers. Officers immediately called them to warn them or offer them help where necessary.”
Habiba and Abdul Rahman’s parents took the children to Al Qasimi Hospital after they became ill in the early hours of Sunday, September 2.
Both were in a critical condition when seen by doctors, said Osama Samra, the director of Sharjah Media Centre.
“The girl and her brother were experiencing a hazardous fall in blood pressure, dehydration and repeated vomiting,” Mr Samra said.
“They were taken to intensive care where physicians diagnosed a suspected case of food poisoning.
“After medical examination a weakness in the heart muscles of the girl was found, resulting in lowering its function and lack of response to recovery operations.
“Six hours after arrival to the hospital, Habiba passed away.”
Dr Amiri was unable to say for certain why only Habiba and Abdul Rahman were affected by the chemical, leaving the parents and their one-month-old baby Fatima unharmed, although there is scientific evidence that children are affected more rapidly than adults.
The seven men arrested have been referred to prosecutors.