A pesticide technician sprays an apartment in Ajman. Pest control companies are warning against using fly-by-night operators using poisonous and dangerous substances. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Pest control companies have warned residents against using cheaper unlicensed alternatives after three people died from suspected poisoning recently in the UAE.

A three-year-old Bangladeshi girl and her eight-month-old sister died in Ajman after a neighbouring apartment was treated with chemicals on June 1, officials said.

Separately, a 35-year-old Filipina beauty salon worker died in Fujairah on June 12 in similar circumstances, police said. Two of her Ethiopian housemates fell seriously ill in the incident.

A number of other residents have previously died from suspected poisoning after being exposed to chemicals unfit for domestic pest control, the companies said.

“People don’t realise this can be a serious public health and safety issue, things can go horribly wrong if you call in the wrong guys,” said P. Pramod, managing director of Universal Pesticides Trading and Services, a licensed UAE operator.

He added that a “dangerously common” threat is the home use of powerful industrial-strength chemicals called “bombs”.

“I think the so-called ‘bombs’ might have been used in some recent cases. These tablets can be lethal, they are not for home use. These restricted pesticides are for agricultural industry use under controlled, government-approved conditions.

“But people are not aware of this and unscrupulous companies are taking advantage by offering them a cheap ‘short cut’ to their pest problems – the ‘bombs’ will kill everything.”

These tablets break down when they come into contact with air, releasing a strong pesticide gas, he explained.

In both the incidents this month, the victims died from complications after reportedly inhaling fumes that had spread from neighbouring residences undergoing pest control.

“Had the right treatment been used there should have been no toxic gas fumigation. Please don’t play with people’s lives for money,” added Pramod.

Another leading pest control company urged residents to be on guard against illegal operators.

“Check if the company is on the approved list of Dubai Municipality, for example. In fact, they review and grade the companies on a monthly basis,” said Dinesh Ramachandran, technical director of National Pest Control.

“Do a little bit of background check – does the company have a website or landline; is the staff certified and licensed; can they show you a MSDS [Materials Safety Data Sheet]?” Ramachandran added.

Residents are often told by some operators to leave the serviced apartment for a day or two – which should be treated with caution, he said.

“Four to six hours is the normal safety period for approved sprays diluted with water… But the ‘bombs’ produce gas, you can’t contain gas.”

Ramachandran added that underground sales of ‘bombs’ allow unlicensed outfits to offer a cheap but risky service to residents.

“Any company that promises you a Dh50-job with a six-month guarantee is worth a second thought. Silly prices and silly promises are not worth it, you can’t give guarantees like that in this profession.

“Unfortunately, some people end up paying a heavy price for it in the end,” he said.