Boy who died of suspected pesticide poisoning in Sharjah to be laid to rest on Wednesday

Khuzaimah Khan, 10, died in hospital after being overcome by toxic fumes at his home in Sharjah

Twins Komal and Khuzaimah pictured with their father, Shefi Ulleh Niazi. Courtesy family
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A schoolboy who died after being overcome by toxic fumes at his family home in Sharjah is to be laid to rest on Wednesday.

Industrial pesticides from a flat in Al Nahda are suspected of causing the death of Khuzaimah Khan, 10, on Friday.

His twin sister, Komal, was admitted to the intensive care unit of Al Qasimi Hospital but is expected to be discharged on Tuesday after making a strong recovery.

Her parents, who were also treated in hospital for potential poisoning, said they will finally break the news of Khuzaimah's death to his sibling now that funeral arrangements have been made.

His father, Shefi Ulleh Niazi, 42, said authorities have agreed to release the body, allowing the service to take place at Al Sahaba Mosque, in Sharjah, after Asr prayers.

“My daughter Komal is doing better and will be discharged from hospital today (Tuesday),” he said.

Mr Niazi told police his son was the first to suffer symptoms, including dizziness and vomiting. He said he took him to Al Zahra Hospital where he was treated and sent home.

Shortly after returning to the flat, his wife, Arifa, and daughter began to suffer similar symptoms and he took them to the same hospital for a check-up, leaving the boy behind with a cousin.

By the time they returned, Khuzaimah’s condition had worsened and he fell unconscious, prompting his father to call for an ambulance.

Khuzaimah died in Al Qasimi Hospital, where Komal is being treated.

An initial investigation found the Pakistani family’s neighbours had fumigated their flat before travelling. Police obtained a warrant to enter the neighbouring property where they found and seized 32 pesticide tablets.

Brig Gen Ahmed Al Serkal, head of Sharjah Police criminal laboratory, said that tests on samples of the material seized at the neighbor’s apartment confirmed it as the banned aluminium phosphide, which can cause shock, heart inflammation and multi-organ failure.

Such chemicals should be available only to commercial buyers, not the public, said brig gen Al Serkal.

Police are still investigating where the substance – banned from public sale in the UAE since 2009 – was bought.

Pest control experts said that such tragic incidents occur when residents carry out fumigation work themselves or seek the assistance of unauthorised firms.

Kamal Abdulmuti Mahmoud, owner of pest control company Golden Tower, in Al Nasireyah, Sharjah, said that many rogue traders are in operation, despite not being licensed to carry out the complex work.

“They print out leaflets and distribute them and unfortunately some residents actually seek their services,” he said.

“They are not aware of the risks and don’t know what and what not to use.”

Atteyah Mohammed, from Treasure pest control, said that tighter regulations on shops selling pesticides to individuals should be introduced.

“When a resident decides to save money and buy materials themselves, they are not aware of the risks and health requirements, which can result in accidents,” he said.

Companies that fail to comply with safety standards can face fines of up to Dh10,000 and can be closed down, according to Sharjah Municipality.

Regular inspections of pest control operators are conducted, said Thabet Al Tarifi, director general of Sharjah Municipality

He said the support of the public is crucial to snaring unlicensed offenders and saving lives.

“Our list of approved materials are safe to store in your kitchen but there are violators who operate from hidden warehouses and manufacture some banned substances. They can only be caught through the public’s co-operation,” he said.

He urged residents to only use licensed companies when requiring pest control services.

“I urge people to ask for the company’s license and materials licence whenever they need pest control services, and to report any company that declines to do so.”

The municipality said it works closely with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment to ensure lists of permitted pesticides are up to date.

Misuse of pesticides resulting in injury or death can carry a prison term of up to five years, said Rasmi Ragy, senior counsel at the Dubai office of law firm, Charles Russell Speechlys.