The improper use of pesticides, especially Aluminium Phosphide, illegally used for controlling bed bugs, is the focus of the campaigns launched by the departments. Many cases of deaths resulting from people inhaling poisonous fumes after pest control firms used poor-quality chemicals in homes have been reported in the UAE in the past years. The use of chemical pesticides not only affects people and animals directly, but also leaves an impact on the environment in the long term. Last year, Sharjah Municipality had fined 45 pest control firms after they were caught using prohibited pesticides in homes during inspections, an indication that some pest control firms were still spraying the UAE homes with banned chemicals that can be life-threatening if incorrectly handled.
The UAE ministry annually updates the list of banned and controlled pesticides in compliance with the provisions of international conventions and standards set by the European Union and international organisations. To ensure the quality of pesticides used in the country, the Ministry carefully evaluates and analyses imported pesticides before releasing them to the market. The list of approved pest control companies is available on the municipality's website. The list also includes information and comprehensive details about all approved companies.
Many individuals who do not have experience in pest control services distribute flyers advertising such services. They buy cheap chemicals and add water to them. When residents hire these pest controllers, they claim that they are using a gel that is safe for children. Since most residents do not have a clue about the materials used, they just pay the firm the money in the hope that their accommodation would be free of cockroaches and bugs. Municipal officials in Sharjah and Ajman said during inspections, many companies were found operating without licence and using pesticides that are hazardous to public health. Some firms were found to be using chemicals that could cause cancer and other diseases.
According to the officials, the pest control companies are not allowed to use chemicals that have not been tested and approved by the municipality. All pesticides being imported are subjected to analysis by the Ministry of Environment and Water, which does not allow any pesticide material not approved by WHO or FAO to enter the country. The Dubai Municipality has now made it mandatory for all commercial and industrial establishments based in the emirate to hire pest control companies only after the municipality's approval. The pest control companies have also been asked to hire professional and experienced personnel.
Measures to control harmful chemicals
The UAE has initiated strict measures over the recent years to control and prevent the use of harmful chemicals. Health officials in Dubai have issued warnings about hiring illegal companies, with municipal regulations prohibiting importing, handling and trading of pesticides without permission. Officials said the pesticides used must comply with specifications approved by Dubai municipality, health and environmental standards and technical requirements. In Abu Dhabi, pest control companies must be registered with the Centre for Waste Management and the Department of Economic Development. In Dubai, all pest control contractors must be approved by the Public Health Pest Control Section of the Public Health Services Department. In Sharjah, the companies must register with the municipality.
Besides, the Ministry of Environment and Water last year issued a new resolution that prohibits the distribution of any pesticide without proper registration from the ministry. According to the new resolution, banned pesticides cannot be registered or imported into the country, while companies are barred from using pesticides without the ministry's approval.
In case of suspected poisoning
The Food Control Department of the Dubai Municipality have suggested the following rules for the public to save human lives in case of suspected poisoning:
If severe vomiting is noticed, don't conclude that it is a case of food poisoning. Notify the food control and the pest department immediately.
In Dubai, a notification would trigger an investigation to check both food and environmental exposure. You can also avoid the last meal bias by allowing us to investigate. It may not be the food that you think that has caused the illness. Notification should be done immediately so that authorities can go and check the premises. Any delay would reduce the probability of finding the problem.
Public should refrain from using such chemicals. Notify the municipality at 800900 if anyone is found selling Aluminium Phosphide, popularly known as 'bomb.' People should also look for signs of fumigation such as bugs falling dead and neighbours sealing their doors with tapes especially during weekends. Contact a pest control agency approved by the Dubai Municipality for managing pests. Take preventive measures.
What to do in case of suspected poisoning:
• Immediately open doors
• Come out to an open area rich in oxygen
• Call an ambulance.