The hospitalisation of 23 people, including students and teachers, in Sharjah last week due to pesticide poisoning at a school is a harsh reminder of the continuing problem of the poor understanding of pesticides by the public in the UAE. In this instance which, unfortunately, will be added to the already long list of pesticide-related mishaps in the country, the pesticide squad conducted its operations on a week night, with the school in session the next day. This is a matter of deep concern and the school’s investigation must reveal how such an ill-timed decision was taken, to serve as a warning to others.
The dangers of an indiscriminate use of pesticides are many and it’s not just entities who are remiss; many residents too have paid a price for this lapse of judgement. The truth about pesticides is that they are all chemical and hence, all toxic. Only qualified personnel should use them.
In the wrong hands, they can lead to grim consequences, not just for themselves but also for the others. In May last year, a 10-year-old boy died in Sharjah after toxic gas — due to pesticide use by his neighbour — leaked into his apartment through the air conditioning ducts. This is but one count in the many instances of such collateral damage.
Every precaution has been taken by the government to ensure the public’s safety. All that remains for people to do is follow the rules and resist the lure of cheaper alternatives in pesticides.
The UAE has stringent rules for the import and use of pesticides. Every type, from chemical, organic, ready-to-use pesticides to pheromones, attractants, repellents, additives for pesticide formulations and bio-pesticides need to be registered with the ministry. The authorities continually update their list of banned pesticides and conduct awareness campaigns to reiterate the rules, regulations and processes in place for the use of pesticides. Only accredited pesticide control companies can operate in the market, and technicians and operators are even mandated to carry ID cards to present to the building’s security personnel or to the resident before proceeding with their task.
What all this means is that every precaution has been taken by the government to ensure the public’s safety. All that remains for people to do is follow the rules and resist the lure of cheaper alternatives in pesticides, often peddled by rogue operators in the name of saving money and time.
As the many pesticide-related tragedies have proved, these short cuts are simply not worth it.