x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Harmful pesticides must be regulated

Pesticides, so dangerous they are banned from sale to consumers, still turn up in retail shops - sometimes with deadly results. It is a general rule of government that any law is useless without rigorous enforcement.

Last week a man died in his sleep after spraying illegal pesticide in his Dubai apartment. Last year two infants died after inhaling toxic fumes from a neighbouring apartment - the gasses in that instance wafted through the AC vents.

Both cases involved the wilful application of highly toxic substances in places they should never have been used. And neither case should have happened to anyone.

As reported in The National yesterday, industrial-strength pesticides banned by the Ministry of Environment and Water because of their high levels of toxicity, continue to be sold in shops across all emirates, industry experts say.

Some of these chemicals are mislabelled or not labelled at all. Others are knowingly brought in from abroad, their bans not actively enforced.

"These materials are readily available in the market and are cheap, which can lead to their overuse and subsequent ill-effects," said Col Jamal Al Jalaf, the deputy director of Dubai Police's CID.

Government officials have long known the dangers of materials like Diazinon and Phostoxin. In November 2009, the ministry banned 167 chemicals in accordance with international standards. Another 32 were allowed to be used, but only by licenced operators.

Small shops, however, still consistently ignore or are unaware of these restrictions, and irresponsibly continue to offer them to customers.

As with so many matters of governance, regulations on paper are only as good as the enforcement behind them. Dubai police have begun warning retailers and consumers of the use of these hazardous - and illegal - products. Other emirates must follow suit.

But what is also needed is an awareness initiative targeting shop owners to remove these materials from the consumer market.

The materials that Dubai police and ministry officials worry about should never be available to unlicensed consumers. Experts with permits to handle them do so with safety gear and masks. These rules are on the books. It is time to take them to the marketplace.