Girl,11, dies due to pesticide poisoning, suspects nabbed

Sharjah Police to begin awareness campaign on pesticides

Farah Ebrahim, an 11-year-old Iraqi girl living in Sharjah, died on Monday morning July 1, due to heart failure.

She, along with her mother, were hospitalized at the Al Qassimi Hospital two days ago, on Saturday evening June 29, after they were found in critical condition and were immediately placed in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Doctors suspected a case of food poisoning and upon medical examination, the cases were diagnosed as toxic chemical poisoning.

Dr. Saqer Al Mualla, Deputy CEO and Head of Plastic Surgery, Al Qassimi Hospital, said that the mother and daughter were first hospitalized showing symptoms such as stomach pain. The mother was released on her own will and returned with the family to the hospital the next day (Saturday 29) with a worsened health condition of all members.

“In case of a pesticide poisoning, the situation is unpredictable and it results in failure of heart (muscle cells die and cause weakening of heart function), kidney and the lung as the last organs affected. The 11-year-old girl died due to heart failure on Monday morning (July 1); the mother is still in coma, all other family members are well but under continuous observation,” Dr. Al Mulla said.

So, what happened? Illegal pesticides, that’s what happened.

“This pesticide is usually imported from Asian countries like India, Pakistan and China. The freight is using the tablets to eradicate insects,” said Dr. Al Mulla. Unfortunately, the ignorance of Farah’s Indian neighbor, who used the illegal pesticides in his apartment, resulted in the 100-year-old’s tragic death.

In a media statement, Sharjah Police said it has nabbed the culprits, and is cooperating with numerous authorities to investigate the case of the family which was affected by the toxic pesticide and resulted in the death of the 11-year-old girl.

Medical reports stated that the proof gathered from the patients and the apartments on Friday morning, June 28, reveal that the cause was an illegal toxic pesticide called Phostoxin/ P Hostoxin.

Sharjah Police Office received a phone call on Sunday June 30, reporting that a family was brought to the hospital suffering from acute symptoms of poisoning. Later, the 11-year-old girl, Farah Ebrahim, died on Monday morning July 1 due to heart failure.

Based on what was mentioned by the hospital, the relevant authorities of Sharjah Police embarked on an investigation about the circumstances of the incident, where a team of senior police officers in Sharjah, forensic experts and a general health inspector of the Sharjah Municipality went to the residence of the family in order to collect evidence and identify the cause and origin of the occurrence.

The team from the Criminal Investigation Department and the general health inspector Yaser Bakhet were confronted with a strong odour emanating from the apartment of the family.

Colonel Dr. Sami Al Halyan from the Forensic Department at Sharjah Police suspected a chemical that is used illegally as a pesticide, where this was confirmed by the findings of Dr. Moutisim Ibrahim Suleyman Al Qasim, Poison and Toxic Expert at Sharjah Police.

After inspecting the scene and questioning the management of the building, and a number of government officials from departments responsible for residential affairs, Dr. Sami Al Halyan said the Police found out that the origin of the toxic which reached the Iraqi family on the 11th floor was located on the 12th floor.

The tenant of the apartment on the 12th floor identified as an Indian expatriate, had been suffering from an insect-infestation in his apartment for some time. The Police has been told by the tenant and the watchman of the building, that the building management was contacted and the Indian tenant was advised to deal with it on his own (despite the fact that each residential unit’s management holds an arrangement with a pesticide company to protect tenants from its health risks).

After contacting the watchman of the building and inquiring about possible ways for purchasing pesticides, the watchman told the tenant that he will provide him with the pesticides, where he purchased them from acquaintances. The sellers, with full knowledge about the extent of the pesticides’ toxicity, sold them to the tenant for Dh200, where the initial purchase by the watchman was for Dh75.

Findings of Lieutenant Ahmed Al Hamadi, Head of the Print and Publishing Department at Sharjah Police and Dr. Moutisim Ibrahim Suleyman Al Qasim, indicate that on Thursday June 27, the inexperienced tenant treated his apartment with the pesticides, placing two tablets in each room in order to get rid of the insects.

After opening and inspecting the apartment a large number of tablets (18-20) of phosphide aluminium located in different areas (legally prohibited) were found.

The poison reached the apartment of the Iraqi family in form of gas (aluminium phosphide turns in a timeframe of around four hours when in contact with humidity into phosphane gas) through the ventilation pipes and an exhaust hole located in the kitchen of the family.

Phosphine is defined (IUPAC name phosphane) as a colorless, flammable, toxic gas. Pure phosphine is odorless, but technical grade samples have a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish.

Lieutenant Ahmed Al Hamadi said: “This toxic pesticide has approximately 6-7 commercial names. In this case we identified the toxic through its typical chemical formula that defines it as a toxic pesticide. This toxic which turned into gas is not controllable, as it vanishes once inhaled. For example, the use of 2-3 tablets is enough to eradicate all insects and affect a grain amount of more than 5 tonnes.”

Al Hamadi further stated: “Any pesticide company is controlled by the Municipality with strict regulations. Toxic pesticides which are not legalised cannot be used by those companies.”

Further cases have been discovered that include an Emirati family on the 12th floor (currently under medical observation).

Al Hamadi said: “Our investigations currently focus on the ventilation system within the building to possibly evacuate units as a precautionary measure”.

Sharjah Police calls on all residents in case of facing such an incident, to immediately open doors, expose themselves to open areas rich of oxygen and to call the paramedics and police immediately on 999. Additionally, helping in providing the police with any information which would save people, especially children who are prone to being affected the most, will be greatly appreciated.

Preparations for an awareness campaign in collaboration with Sharjah Media Centre are up and running, aiming at targeting authorities, the community, residential buildings and the media, in addition to identifying the root of the syndicate selling these illegal and lethal toxins.