x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Blood tests prove illegal pesticide killed two-year-old girl

A two-year-old girl who died hours after being taken to hospital was poisoned by a banned chemical pesticide used in her family's apartment block in Sharjah.

Blood tests confirm that Habiba Hisham, left, died after being poisoned by a banned chemical pesticide. Her brother, Abdul Rahman Hisham, remains in hospital.
Blood tests confirm that Habiba Hisham, left, died after being poisoned by a banned chemical pesticide. Her brother, Abdul Rahman Hisham, remains in hospital.

SHARJAH // A two-year-old girl who died hours after being taken to hospital was poisoned by a banned chemical pesticide used in her family's apartment block.

Habiba Hisham and her brother Abdul Rahman Hisham, 6, were admitted to Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah last week with symptoms of poisoning, including continuous vomiting and dehydration. The little girl died six hours later. Abdul Rahman remains in hospital.

More than 10 capsules of aluminium phosphide, a banned chemical, were found in an apartment near the Abdul Fattah family's flat on the fifth floor of a seven-storey residential building in Umm Al Tarifa.

The capsules were placed there while the tenant was away, by an informal group promoting pest control, which is under investigation. Police have arrested the founder of the company, and he is expected to be prosecuted.

The tenant, an Indian expatriate, has since returned to the country but declined to comment.

Test results of blood samples from Abdul Rahman Hisham show he was exposed to aluminium phosphide. He was on a respirator and receiving heart support until Sunday, and his condition yesterday was described as stable.

The boy will remain in the intensive-care unit for at least another four days. "He is stable but still under close follow-up and observation," said Dr Khalid Khalfan Sabt, deputy technical director at the hospital. "He's a little disorientated and confused, but it is still unclear if there was any impact on the brain. He's recognising and responding to his parents, but he's always asking about his sister."

Aside from his heart, none of the child's organs seem to have been affected, Dr Sabt said, and his vital signs are stable.

Officials from Sharjah Municipality said last week that any pesticide company found to be operating without a licence would be closed and the owners prosecuted. Licensed companies using harmful and banned pesticides would be fined between Dh500 and Dh1,000, and could also face closure.

After being told the blood-test results, the children's father, Hisham Abdul Rahman Abdul Fattah, said he hoped it would be a lesson learnt by the community and drive authorities to enforce stricter regulations.

"Awareness must not only be raised for tenants, but also among the pest-control companies," he said. "This tragedy must not be in vain."

mismail@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Yasin Kakande