Pest control could be a dirty business. There are many illegal pest control firms that use banned chemicals, at times diluting them with water, which when inhaled can cause serious illness and be life threatening too.

In the UAE, authorities in different emirates always keep a guard against unauthorised pest control companies. As the winter season is close by, illegal pest control companies are mushrooming along with those who sell pesticides online. Civic bodies in Sharjah and Ajman have cautioned residents not to buy any pesticide material online without ensuring its safety.

Thabit Al Taraifi, director-general of the Sharjah Municipality, said that the health and environment department is making huge efforts to track down unlicensed pest control firms that have been circulating flyers and advertisements, which mention their contact details. It also takes action against those who promote banned pesticides or chemicals on social media.

"According to Administrative Order No. 19 issued by the municipality in 1994, pest control companies are not allowed to use chemicals that have not been tested and approved by the authorities," he underlined.

Hassan Al Tafaq, director of the environment department at Sharjah Municipality, said that the pest control section has stepped up efforts to ensure public safety. The municipality has conducted intensified awareness campaigns, while putting up stickers to alert people about banned pesticides in residential and commercial buildings across Sharjah. "The inspectors have also directed the watchmen of buildings to check the licence of the pest control companies that offer services to tenants. The authorised and approved pest control companies are listed on municipality's website, and residents can also call 993 to get the list," he added.

Check on commercial locations

Khalid Moeen Al Hosani, executive director of the public health and environment sector at Ajman Municipality, said that the civic body monitors all illegal activities that affect public health. It continues its watch over illegal pest control companies. The municipality is working with police authorities to zero in on shady firms that use social media platforms to promote banned pesticides among residents. "There are a number of complaints against individuals and companies selling hazardous pesticides online or through Facebook and WhatsApp," he pointed out.

Al Hosani explained that both the municipalities recently held the first Ajman Forum For Pest Control and discussed a wide range of issues related to pest control companies. "The Ajman Municipality has always prioritised the health and safety of citizens and made every effort to launch initiatives that promote and transform the emirate into a healthy city, where residents and visitors enjoy a safe life and secure environment."

The municipality also launched awareness programmes that aimed at educating the society on the types of pests and ways to control them. "The municipality is keen on utilising modern technologies that would help improve the society's health." Al Hosani pointed out that the pest control section has coordinated with pest control companies to make them adhere to specific terms and conditions that are in line with federal laws and other regulations. He pointed out that such coordination is meant to ensure public safety, safeguard the rights of beneficiaries, and evaluate the approved engineers to validate their knowledge and experience so that safe and effective services are provided to the residents.

He said that the municipality currently monitors all commercial locations to check if the entities operating there avail services of pest control companies that have been given a nod by the civic body.

"Directives are currently being drafted to oblige real estate facilities and hotels to have business partnerships with approved pest control firms in order to maintain health standards."

He added that construction companies and consultants will also be included in such directives, and that they will have to cooperate with pest control companies to fight termite before they enter the construction phase.

In Abu Dhabi, officials said use of latest technologies has resulted in a significant reduction in the use of chemicals - from 55,000 litres in 2014 to 29,000 litres in 2018. Last year, Tadweer received 88,000 service request calls from residents who requested that their homes be treated.

"The use of harmful chemicals by pest control firms has significantly reduced in Abu Dhabi over the past four years and, apparently, there are low-risk chemicals that can be used in pest control," said ohammed Mahmood Al Marzouqi, pest control projects department director at the Centre of Waste Management in Abu Dhabi (Tadweer).

Recently, the Food Control and Pest Control departments of Dubai Municipality have warned the public against getting pest control done at homes from unapproved companies. Residents have been urged not to conduct pest control by themselves or use chemicals sold by individuals.

The improper use of pesticides, especially Aluminium Phosphide, illegally used for controlling bed bugs, is the focus of the campaigns launched by the civic body.