Pesticide which killed 10 in Dubai ‘should never be used in homes’

Pesticides containing aluminium phosphide has killed 10 people in Dubai in the past year who have inhaled the chemical.

 Pesticides containing aluminium phosphide has killed 10 people in Dubai in the past year who have inhaled the chemical.  Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
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DUBAI // A pesticide that has killed 10 people is illegal for use in homes under any circumstances, experts warn.

Those who died had inhaled pesticide containing aluminium phosphide in Dubai in the past year.

“This pesticide is only to be used by licensed companies under the direct supervision of Dubai Municipality and never in homes,” said Hisham Al Yahya, head of public health and pest control at Dubai Municipality.

“This is only used in palm planting to prevent cases of red palm weevil and against pests in warehouses that store wheat, pulses, sugar and such.”

He said licensed companies required the municipality’s approval before using the compound.

“We need to know when and where (it will be used), and then we approve it and tell them (users) who we will be sending from Dubai Municipality to monitor the procedure,” said Mr Al Yahya.

He said the municipality had special measuring devices for the monitoring of the deadly compound because “only a certain percentage [of the pesticide] can be used. And if used in warehouses, you must make sure that they remain closed for a certain period of time”.

Some people – mostly blue-collar workers who want to kill bedbugs – choose to ignore the warnings and use the toxic pesticide because it was cheaper than using pest controllers, according to the municipality.

“They resort to these methods and buy the pesticides illegally or from the black market. However, they may not only be harming themselves but also their neighbours,” said Mr Al Yahya. He warned that phosphide gas could not be easily detected because it was colourless and odourless.

A mother and her child were among those who died this year from inhaling the pesticide, said Dubai Police’s general directorate for evidence and criminology.

They lost their lives when aluminium phosphide seeped into their home through air -conditioning ducts after neighbours had applied the pesticide.

Shajahan Mohammed Aziz, of Paramount Pest Control, said his company did not use such pesticides.

“This is a whole different thing and needs a special licence,” said the industry veteran of 10 years. “It’s very dangerous and even if customers were to request it, we will never do it.

“It’s not about money, it’s about people’s health, as aluminium phosphide can have dangerous side-effects on health and even lead to death.”

Amina Mustafa, a 29-year-old Dubai resident, said she called pest control when she first moved into her flat in Silicon Oasis and was aware of a “dangerous kind” of pesticide.

“I had heard stories of people dying because of a certain pesticide. But when I called a pest control company I found online, they were very reassuring that what they used was not illegal,” she said.

“I remember they even gave me the name of what they used to research myself, but you never know.”

Ms Mustafa said the illegal use of pesticides was an issue that had to be addressed.

“In almost all cases, the people affected are neighbours, as the people who use them leave their apartment because they know it’s poisonous,” she said.

“It’s odourless, so you wouldn’t know that there is something that is killing you.”

However, Ms Mustafa said she did not believe her neighbours would use pesticide that were illegal for home use.

“I think the people living around me know enough to understand that using such pesticide can harm us,” she said. “You just have to have faith in people that they are being responsible and hope that there is awareness on the issue.”

Mr Al Yahya urged residents to contact Dubai Municipality on its free hotline 800900 if they suspected neighbours or companies of using the pesticide.

“They need to call us and we will immediately follow up on the case, as this is people’s lives we’re talking about.”