x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Grieving mum calls for controls on pesticide that killed her daughter

A senior officer at the Sharjah Municipality said experts had dismissed food poisoning as the cause of the children's illness and now suspected chemicals.

SHARJAH // The mother of a toddler now thought to have died because of exposure to an illegal pesticide has called on authorities to clamp down on the sale of the chemicals.

Habiba Hisham, 2, and her brother Abdul Rahman, 6, were rushed to hospital by their frightened Egyptian parents early on Sunday after showing symptoms of poisoning, including continuous vomiting.

The little girl died after a heart attack six hours later. Abdul Rahman is still in a critical state.

A senior officer at the Sharjah Municipality said experts had dismissed food poisoning as the cause of the children's illness and now suspected chemicals.Hisham Abdul Rahman Abdul Fattah, the children's father, said he suspected poisoning after noticing the door of the flat across the hall was sealed with tape.

He said authorities yesterday entered the flat and found capsules of aluminium phosphide, a pesticide.

The children's mother, Shimaa Sadek, said: "Every day I see many ads for pest-control companies slipped through our doors or posted somewhere near the building.

"Authorities need to monitor these companies and check each and every chemical in the products they are using."

Mr Abdul Fattah said the neighbours had been travelling in India and it was unclear how long they had been gone.

Aluminium phosphide is banned for household use in the UAE, but many suppliers continue to sell it illegally. It is usually used to keep pests out of stored grains.

The mortality rate for aluminium phosphide poisoning is between 60 and 80 per cent of all cases and there is no antidote.

Municipal and hospital authorities declined to give further information, saying the case is still under investigation.

Abdul Rahman's condition has improved slightly, said Dr Khalid Khalfan Sabt, deputy technical director at Al Qassimi Hospital.

The efficiency of his heart function increased from 25 per cent on Monday to 45 yesterday, but Dr Sabt said the boy was still in a critical stage and remained in the paediatric intensive care unit.

"We are giving him optimal medical support to fight the toxins," he said.

Praying in the waiting room of the paediatric ICU, Mrs Sadek was at a loss to explain the tragedy.

"What can I say?" she asked. "May God keep us patient."

Mrs Sadek said authorities had taken the couple's apartment keys and asked them not to return until they told the couple it was safe. She emphasised the need for the stricter regulation of pesticides.

She said she was alarmed by how easy it was for people to obtain a product that was illegal and possibly lethal.

"How can people get their hands on something that is banned from the country and so harmful?" she asked. "Authorities need to step in and clear this product from the market once and for all."

mismail@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Yasin Kakande