Your pest control guy could kill you

Jul 15, 2012, 01:14 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Stung by the death of Versova siblings Rehab and Rameez Chougle, allegedly due to the toxic gases they inhaled courtesy an unlicensed pest control technician, the Indian Pest Control Association (IPCA) has decided to conduct regular drives in Mumbai's housing societies to educate people about correct pest control procedures and safety measures. Smart move, considering over 1,000 pest control companies in the city are illegal, and spraying toxic gases into your homes

Taking serious note of the role of pest control in the mysterious death of Versova siblings, Dr Rameez and Rehab Chougle, on July 7 (‘What killed Versova siblings within 24 hrs’), the Indian Pest Control Association (IPCA) has decided to conduct regular drives in housing societies across the city about the dos and don’ts that people should keep in mind while conducting pest control at their homes.

File pic for Representational purposes only

Confirming the development, Dr K Mallareddy, president, IPCA, said, “We are seriously concerned about the deaths of the siblings in Mumbai. As most people are ignorant about the chemicals used in pest control, we have decided to educate the residents of cooperative housing societies across the country. The first programme will start in Mumbai and other metros from July 28. Pamphlets and reading materials will also be published in different languages for the programme.”

1,000 illegal companies
According to Mallareddy, there are only 300 registered IPCA members, while over 1,000 other people are operating pest control businesses without obtaining any of the mandatory licenses to store and use any of these chemicals.

A pest control procedure. File pic

As per the mandate given under the Insecticide Act 1968, only those people who are science graduates, and have compulsorily undergone a government approved 15-day training programme in pest control at one of the three institutes approved by the government of India are allowed to work as pest control technicians. It is also mandatory for the pest control license holder to ensure that the license is renewed at regular intervals from the State Director and Commissioner of Agriculture.

“The pest control industry is an unorganised sector and there is no direct supervision or control over the people operating in it. The minimal investments and high profit returns lure many technically unqualified people to set up their own businesses,” explained Vinod Parekh, a senior IPCA member.

Hazardous to health
Parekh explained that many chemicals, such as Aluminum Phosphide, which is a highly toxic Phosphine gas that is used only for fumigation purposes by the Food Corporation of India and Central Warehousing Corporation to preserve food grain, are available in the market for a mere Rs 300 per kg in tablet form.

DDVP (Dichlorovos), another toxic chemical, is also available at Rs 450 per litre, and is misused by untrained pest control technicians. Neither of the two are meant to be used for pest control at home or residential premises, as they can cause serious health issues.

Stelson Quadros, secretary, IPCA, cautioned that people must also check claims of herbal treatment by pest control companies. “There is nothing called herbal pest control. Those who claim to offer it use chemicals which are diluted and then label them as herbal.”

M V Deshmukh, director, Fire and Emergency Services, and fire advisor, Government of Maharashtra, acknowledged that members of the public are ignorant about the type of chemicals used in pest control. “Ignorance cannot be an excuse, especially when it is a matter of life and death,” he said.

Vinod Sampat, president, Cooperative for Society, Residents, Users Welfare, said, “Pest control companies should have a sound knowledge of chemicals they use in pest control. We welcome the measures taken by the IPCA to examine chemicals to be used by pest control companies and to monitor their activities.”

Pest Control at home? Watch out

* Check if the pest control agency is registered with IPCA and possesses a valid certificate
* Cross check the claims made by the pest control agency by logging on to
* Check if the agency has an insecticide license
* Ask for Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for chemicals that will be used before the pest control is done
* Insist that the agency uses chemicals which are proven to be safe and recommended by IPCA, including Alpha cypermethrin or Delta methrin, both of which are odourless chemicals. Propaxur, which is also safe, may have an odour
* Ensure that the rooms in which pest control is conducted are mopped, two hours after the activity is completed, by a person wearing hand gloves
* Keep windows open and rooms ventilated post the pest control

* Do not allow banned and toxic chemicals to be used
*Do not overlook the pest control technician’s instructions
* In case of any doubt contact the company or IPCA officials
* In case of any health issues post the pest control, consult your doctor

The story so far
Although cops initially ruled out the role of pest control in the Chougle siblings’ death, one week after the mysterious deaths occurred, they arrested Rukhsar Almekar. Almekar, in her mid-20s, allegedly used harmful chemicals excessively while carrying out pest control in their house on July 3. She possessed neither a license for her business nor technical expertise.
The accused blames the siblings’ mother, Farzana Chougle. She had allegedly warned Farzana not to let anyone into the house until 24 hours after the pest control had been conducted.
Rehab and Rameez Chougle died in quick succession of each other on July 7. Both suffered terrible bouts of vomiting 

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