Abu Dhabi authorities have warned that using pesticides banned for domestic use or hiring unregistered pest control companies could have deadly consequences.
Pesticides containing aluminium phosphide, known as 'Bomb', were banned for public sale in the UAE since 2009 but are still sold for agricultural use. The pesticide is intended for date palm gardens.
“It’s for agricultural pests,” said Mohammed Al Marzouqi, the pest-control project director at the Centre of Waste Management - Abu Dhabi (Tadweer).
“Its use is for the red weevil but these people are using that it in their flats to fight bed bugs. Why? Because it is Dh75 in the market.”
He has urged the public to inform police if they suspect illegal pesticide use.
“If you know anyone who has Bomb and says he is going to use it, please inform the police,” said Mr Al Marzouqi.
“People need to call the police immediately because this is dangerous. Residents of the building could die. Our advice to the public is don’t go and use any types of pesticide by yourself and make sure you have approved pest control companies.”
Those living in flats with centralised air conditioning units could be at risk. “If you use it in a closed room, it will definitely move from this room to other flats,” he said. “Sometimes someone goes for the cheap price but if any incident happens, he could die or maybe his neighbours. It’s a big mistake to deal with non-certified people.”
Deaths from pesticides had not been reported in Abu Dhabi for two years but national deaths from illegal pesticide use are reported on an annual basis.
Many victims are children.
Tadweer must approve every instance of fumigation use, said pest control companies.
These stringent measures are good news for the industry, said Bernerd Decosta, an employee of Acas Grovex Hygiene and Pest Control Services.
“It’s good for our business because something can happen when people don’t know what they are doing,” said Mr Decosta.
“It’s very health conscious and that’s a good thing. Before, it was misused. You could get it anywhere. Now they’re coming to be very strict about that.”
The public can find out whether a company is registered by calling 800 555 or on the Tadweer app. The authority has certified about 100 companies.
Customer should see whether or not the company has a landline and address. Illegal companies often only provide a mobile number.
Registered companies have complained about the number of illegal pesticide operations in the capital.
“We have submitted many complaints to Tadweer and the Ministry of the Economy regarding this issue,” said Malek Ditani, the owner of Wipe Out Pest Control.
“It’s Tadweer’s job to monitor such things. You can find sometimes in the UAE that you’ll open your door and find the sticker right outside your door.”
Illegal companies charge as little as Dh80. Legitimate companies charge at least Dh200.
Customers have begun to think heavy pesticide use is normal, said Mr Ditani.
“We have had people come to us and say they want the chemical with a strong smell. If it has a strong smell, it’s agricultural material and it shouldn’t be used in the house. We tell them we don’t use this, these are dangerous.
Tadweer are currently collecting brochures of illegal companies for the police.
“People should have a knowledge of the chemical the company is using inside their house because really it’s very dangerous,” said Mr Ditani. “Those companies just buy a chemical and use it. They don’t care if there are children or people in the house.”
Abu Dhabi residents can call Tadweer’s hotline 800 555 to report suspected pesticide misuse. In Dubai, residents can call the municipality’s free hotline at 800900.