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Excessive use of pesticide caused poisoning in UAE school: Report

Afkar Abdullah /Sharjah
afkarali@khaleejtimes.com Filed on February 7, 2020 | Last updated on February 7, 2020 at 06.32 am
pesticide, poisoning, school, report

According to a forensic report, the pesticide used in the classroom didn't contain aluminium monoxide or any other toxic material.

Excessive and improper usage of pesticide caused a recent incident where 21 school students suffered from poisoning, according to authorities.

The students of a private school in Sharjah were rushed to a hospital after they experienced breathing trouble and vomiting because of the pesticide sprayed in their classroom one day before.

According to a forensic report, the pesticide used in the classroom didn't contain aluminium monoxide or any other toxic material. However, excessive usage of the pesticide, which has a bad odour, caused trouble to the students. "The employees should have kept the classroom open for proper ventilation for at least eight hours before the students arrived to their classroom. This kind of work must be done during weekends or holidays," the report said.

Dr Sofia Al Khaja, director of gynaecology and children's department at Al Qasimi Hospital, said the students suffered vomiting and suffocation, which is considered minor situation as the pesticide they inhaled didn't contain aluminium phosphide.

The company has licence

A top official at the Sharjah Municipality said that the pest control company that provided its service in the school was a licensed one and the chemicals it used were also the ones approved by the municipality and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. The official said the cause of the incident was excessive use of chemicals and improper timing.

"The treated place must remain closed for at least 72 hours and then must be kept open for at least eight hours to let the bad air go out and fresh air come in," the official added.

He added that the municipality-approved companies only use pesticide materials listed in the electronic guideline released by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
In previous years, the Sharjah Municipality had confiscated large quantities of counterfeited pesticide materials, including the authorised types.

The ministry highlighted the methods of differentiating between the original and the counterfeit, through the registration and classification certificate number.

Six deaths, 121 poisoning cases in five years

The Sharjah Police have recorded six deaths caused by pesticide poisoning, which included three children and an infant, in the last five years, according to officials. Reported cases of across the emirate stood at 121 cases that were treated at various hospitals.

The last of these cases was that of 21 students in a private school in Sharjah with cases of breathing issues and vomiting as a result of inhaling the pesticide sprayed in their classroom the previous day.

A top official at the Sharjah Municipality said most of the reported cases involved the usage of aluminium phosphide, which turns into a poisonous gas in the event of exposure to moisture in closed places.

62 licensed companies

The official said that the municipality has provided licence for 62 pest control companies to operate in the emirate. "Major crackdown was conducted by the civic body on illegal companies, using their contact details on the flyers and media advertisements. The pest control companies have also been asked to hire professional and experienced personnel. They are also expected to have their offices and warehouses away from the city."

The municipality also carry out regular inspections on licensed companies to ensure that they are following standard specifications that ensure safety of residents.

He said that pest control companies are banned from using sprays inside homes unless they get prior approval. The pest control companies operating in the emirate were given a list of the authorised pesticides that can be used. The companies are not allowed to use chemicals that have not been tested and approved by the municipality.

He warned the residents against the companies that visit homes and distribute flyers to provide pest and rodent control services.

Awareness

The municipality official said that the civic body will continue awareness campaign to alert the customers of the danger of buying pesticide online. The municipality has recently carried out awareness campaigns on the danger of hiring illegal companies and use of banned substances. The pest control section has put up stickers in buildings in Arabic, English and Urdu and educated watchmen not to allow unauthorised companies to provide services to the tenants.

afkarali@khaleejtimes.com

Afkar Abdullah


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