x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Health peril of unlicensed pest-control 'cowboys'

Warning issued to Dubai residents over cut-price offers that may mean companies are using dangerous chemicals that can harm humans, municipality says.

National Pest Control personnel spray a home in Dubai. Dinesh Ramachandran, the technical director of the company, says it is crucial to clamp down on illegal operators because complaints against mismanagement of pesticides were on the increase.
National Pest Control personnel spray a home in Dubai. Dinesh Ramachandran, the technical director of the company, says it is crucial to clamp down on illegal operators because complaints against mismanagement of pesticides were on the increase.

DUBAI // Flyers slipped under doors for low-cost pest-control companies could be hazardous to your health.

Municipality officials have issued a city-wide advisory notice warning of unlicensed operators.

"These companies put their ads on the doors of flats and in the corridors of residential buildings and other residential complexes," Hisham Abdul Rahman al Yahya, head of the Public Health Pest Control section at the municipality, said yesterday.

"These ads may deceive the public who will seek the help of these companies to get rid of insects, rodents, termites and other pests in the home, which will directly result in the risk of using highly toxic pesticides that are not licensed locally."

The municipality could not say how many companies had been caught out, but asked the public for their cooperation in reporting advertisements that generate suspicion.

Because of some of the chemicals used in getting rid of pests, companies operating illegally could be risking the health of the public as well as their own.

Over-concentrated pesticide fumes from a neighbouring flat were blamed for the deaths of five-month-old twin boys in Sharjah in March.

Householders should always ask to see a pest-control employee's identity card, Mr Al Yahya said. These cards are issued by the Public Health Pest Control Section at Dubai Municipality, and enable companies to practise the profession legally.

Dr Ashraf el Houfi, head of intensive care at Dubai Hospital, said that although there had not been a surge of cases related to biohazards, companies not operating under strict rules were putting lives at risk.

"If the municipality is issuing tighter regulations to ensure people's safety, it is a very important matter," Dr el Houfi said. "If pest-control companies are not following municipality rules, it can cause serious problems."

Mismanagement of pesticides, he said, could lead to symptoms including chest tightness, respiratory failure and, in severe cases, conjunctivitis (swelling of the eye) or chemical burns to the skin.

"This is if the hazardous material accidentally gets on to the skin, is inhaled or comes into contact with the eye. It also depends on what kind of material is used, and on quality control," Dr el Houfi said.

Dinesh Ramachandran, technical director for National Pest Control in Dubai, said it was crucial to clamp down on illegal operators because pest complaints were on the increase. Most problems are related to rodents, cockroaches and flying insects such the common house fly.

"Sometimes we see clients in new buildings and others in old buildings or construction sites - it all depends," he said.

Another factor, he said, was the large traffic of supplies - whether food or furniture - coming into Dubai, because with these imports new species previously alien to the UAE may arrive.

"We have found new pests that are not a part of the natural UAE eco-system, such as Red Back Spiders. Such animals, when finding the living conditions comfortable, establish a habitat and spread. So, to operate under regulated and safe conditions is essential," he said.

The municipality visits pest-control companies every month and grades them according to resources, techniques, and health and safety to ensure that they can remain on the list of licensed operators.

"In addition to this list, the client also has every right to ask the company for municipality identification," Mr Ramachandran said.

Visit www.health.dm.ae or call 04 347 4448, for the list of licensed pest-control companies.

 

melshoush@thenational.ae