x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Renewed pesticide alert after 10 men poisoned

Dubai Municipality has issued a warning against the use of banned pesticides after 10 people were hospitalised.

DUBAI// Authorities yesterday repeated their warning against the use of banned pesticides after 10 people were admitted to hospital this week complaining of nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

The men, all staff at a jewellery store in Deira, were poisoned by the banned substance aluminium phosphide, according to Dubai Municipality.

"It was initially suspected to be food poisoning," said Salem Mesmar, the municipality's assistant director general for environment, health and safety. "But after investigations, banned pesticides were found in their neighbour's flat. Most of these cases are being noted by hospitals as food poisoning."

The case follows the death of a nine-year-old boy last month. Awad Khan, his 15-year-old brother and their parents were all taken to Al Baraha Hospital with similar symptoms.

While the rest of his family recovered, Awad died. After authorities ruled out food poisoning, his parents were convinced that pesticides sprayed in a neighbour's flat had killed him. However, police dismissed chemical poisoning or pesticides as the cause of death.

Investigators are still waiting for the results of a bacterial test.

In November 2009, the Ministry of Environment and Water banned 167 chemicals because they posed a danger 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 typesof pesticides, in accordance with international practices.

Yesterday, municipal officials blamed residents for "smuggling" illegal pesticide tablets from their home countries.

"People bring it from abroad, especially from India," Mr Mesmar said. "Indians mainly use it to get rid of bedbugs. This is not the first time. In many instances, people have died. It is a matter of raising awareness and education."

Municipal officials said that although there were several reported deaths by pesticides, this was the first time that chemical poisoning had been proven.

"It is a landmark case," said Bobby Krishna, the municipality's senior food studies and surveys officer. "We found the chemical that had been used in the flat."

The poisoned men, all from Kerala, were recovering yesterday in their home in the Naif area.

"They are still very weak," said T Soman, manager of the shop where they work. He asked that it not be named. "They could have died because of the poisoning. Ten families could have been affected."

Mr Soman said the men woke up around 3am on Wednesday and started vomiting. "Some fainted. They alerted our other staff living close by and they took them to the Iranian Hospital," he said.

pkannan@thenational.ae