Ajman: Two five-month-old boys who died late last week were apparently exposed to a colourless gas used to exterminate rats, XPRESS has learnt.
Ajman Police have told Al Hassan Ali Bakir, the Palestinian father of the boys - two of triplets - that new forensic tests yielded notable traces of phosphine gas in the boys' blood.
Ali Bakir said he is pressing charges against the neighbour - who is alleged to have used the gas to kill rats in his flat - and the pest control company involved. "I am a believer and what happened was God's will, but negligence should not go unpunished," he said in an interview on Wednesday.
The gas is fatal in high dosages, especially for children who are more susceptible to severe reactions such as shallow breathing that can result in death.
Post-mortems on the two boys, Suhail and Ali, who are survived by a sister, attribute the cause of death to the highly volatile fumigant, he said.
"We all got it [exposure to the gas] but their [the boys] immunity was lower," Ali Bakir said from Ajman amid final preparations to bury his sons in the emirate east of Sharjah.
Ali Bakir's wife Jameela, daughter Hala and his mother Umm Al Hassan have been released from hospital after three days of treatment and observation.
Ali Bakir's mother said the loss of her grandsons is devastating - not long after she lost one son in the 2008 Gaza attacks.
"I survived the Gaza toxic gas attacks to face it again here, I lost my son then and I lost my grandsons now," she said.
She was the first to discover something was wrong with the boys hours after both of the parents had visited hospital and first complained they were ill.
"Ali was making a strange sound, and his hands were freezing," she said, noting at that moment her son called her to the other room and gave her Suhail since their mother wasn't feeling well. "I noticed Suhail was making the same sound while breathing and his hands were also freezing, I walked into the room carrying him, and Ali was gone already."
A senior official at Ajman Police said the apartments in question were cordoned off and the pesticide firm owners arrested and referred to the prosecution. No charges have been laid so far.
Ali Bakir said the chemicals may have entered his flat from a ventilator in the Nigerian neighbour's kitchen.
According to Ali Bakir, he wasn't notified by his neighbour that the gas was being used in his house. "Our neighbour left the house without informing us or the watchman about the spraying," Al Bakir said.
The heartache and loss is proving difficult for the family, he said, and a decision has been reached not to return to their Ajman flat.
"We are not returning to that apartment; everything there reminds us of them," he said, adding that once the mourning period ends he will look for a new apartment. For now, the surviving family members are staying with relatives in Abu Dhabi.
Tough pest control regulations
There are stringent licensing and application rules in Ajman governing dangerous pesticides, said an official.
Khalid Al Hosani, Director of the Health and Environment Department at the Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, said that pesticide companies are obliged to submit a list of chemicals used in the process of combating vermin.
"Certificates of validity of the chemicals used by companies are a must," he said.
Regulations ensure that when chemicals are used they do not endanger the community.
"Companies are not allowed to use pesticides without obtaining approval from the Health and Environment Department, otherwise they will be violating regulations," he said.