Capital to tighten regulation of pesticides

Poisons still available despite deaths and bans on their sale, says health authority.

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Abu Dhabi is working to increase the regulation of pesticides.

In the past two years across the UAE there have been several deaths caused by pesticides, 167 of which were banned by the Ministry of Environment and Water in 2009 due to harmful effects.

But banned pesticides are still available.

Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, the head of customer care and corporate communications at the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad), said the agency was looking at better ways of tackling the problem, but he did not say when new regulations might be ready.

"We don't want to take reactive measures, we want to take proactive measures," said Dr Yasser Sharif, the head of the Poison and Drug Information Centre (PDIC), at the launch of the Abu Dhabi Poison Prevention Week.

The PDIC has recorded two deaths in Abu Dhabi caused by exposure to pesticides since the start of last year, the most recent of which was four months ago, Dr Sharif said.

And in Ajman, two five-month-old boys died and their triplet sister spent days in hospital after inhaling pesticide which was sprayed next door to their home in March last year.

There were also 25 non-fatal cases of accidental exposure to pesticides since the beginning of 2010, Dr Sharif said, including three resulting in kidney failure.

More than 200 cases of poisoning were reported to the centre over that time. Pesticides, misuse of over-the-counter medication, and ingestion or inhalation of household products such as bleach accounted for 45 per cent of cases.

Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of over-the-counter drug poisonings, which accounted for 10 per cent of the total figure for household poisonings, were the result of paracetamol overdoses.

The 18 per cent of poisonings that occurred as a result of the ingestion of household cleaning products was almost double that of the US, where the figure is 10.7 per cent.

The campaign week, which will begin in Al Ain tomorrow before heading to Abu Dhabi on Thursday next week, will aim to teach children and adults about the precautions that must be taken.

The dangers of poison are everywhere, Dr Sharif warned.

"At home there are numerous poisons around us," he said. "At schools, at the workplace, we are surrounded by poisons. But we live with them."

The campaign will teach people what to do if they suspect they or their children have ingested poison, and how to use and store household cleaning products, medicine and pesticides.

It will warn parents not to induce vomiting in their child if they have eaten something poisonous, to prevent the chemicals coming back up the oesophagus and entering the lungs.

It will also tell them not to mix household cleaning products or remove them from their original container, and to avoid old medicine.

From buying properly labelled and packaged cleaning products to calling the Centre for Waste Management to verify the pesticides being used in your household, there is much to take on board.

"We need to empower consumers, let them know their rights and what to look for," said Dr Sharif.