x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai officials warn against use of banned pesticides

Dubai Municipality officials have warned against the use of banned chemicals, following a rising number of suffocations due to pesticide sprayings.

DUBAI // Residents should avoid using banned chemicals to rid their homes of pests, Dubai officials said yesterday following what they say are an increasing number of poisonings due to pesticide spraying in homes.

“Consumers buy aluminium phosphide, usually in the form of grey tablets, from unlicensed or unqualified individuals to sell or circulate,” said Hisham Abdul Rahman Al Yahya, the municipality’s head of pest control. “It is packed in cheap plastic bags with no warning labels on them.”

Dubai Municipality officials said the lack of awareness among residents who “smuggle the pesticides illegally from outside the country” is to blame for the hazards.

“We’re trying to track down these people that are still using them and we meet with suppliers who give us a list of the quantities they sell,” said Motahar Hossain, a pest management specialist at the municipality. “This is not for domestic use because if inhaled, it can kill people.”

He said he was unaware of how the products entered the UAE illegally, as the suppliers’ lists showed they were only sold to professionals.

The gas is normally used for stored products such as rice, wheat and barley. But a lack of awareness and misuse of the product has resulted in many poisoning cases and death.

The most recent incidents involved ten people who were poisoned by aluminium phosphide at a jewellery store in Deira last month. The men, all from Kerala, were recovering in their home in the Naif area after they were released from hospital last month. Investigations revealed that banned pesticides had been used in their neighbour’s flat.

The incident followed the death in April of a nine-year-old boy whose family was convinced that pesticides sprayed in a neighbour’s flat had killed him. However, police have dismissed chemical poisoning or pesticides as the cause of death in that case.

“It is dangerous to use toxic and deadly aluminium phosphide in homes for the eradication of rats and insects as this pesticide reacts with moisture, air and produces phosphine gas,” Mr Al Yahya said.

Phosphine gas is lethal to many animals, even in low concentrations.

In November 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Water banned 167 chemicals because they were dangerous to people and the environment.

Another 32 substances were allowed - but only for use by licensed operators. According to the state news agency Wam, the list was updated last year to include 401 types of pesticides, in accordance with international practices.

“People can only use pesticides through a professional pest control company because we supervise them,” Mr Hossain said.

The municipality is intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about dangerous chemicals, including the distribution of brochures urging residents to avoid buying pesticides and tablets.

Mr Hossain said anyone who was aware of the illegal practice or trade of banned chemicals should inform the municipality or Dubai Police.

cmalek@thenational.ae