Pesticide poisoning kills two kids in Jerusalem

cockroaches and ants

This is just one reason why I don’t allow pesticides to come near my home and children: two children have died, and two more are in critical condition after a Jerusalem exterminator applied the pesticide aluminum phosphide in a Jerusalem apartment.

It was the same chemical that killed a thousand people in Syria in August last year.

When aluminum phosphide, used to kill cockroaches, reacts with water it creates a lethal gas phosphine to which there is no antidote.

avigail yael gross, pesticide JerusalemAn eighteen month and four-year old Avigail and Yael Gross (pictured left) were rushed to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center along with the rest of their family (there are two other boys, 5 and 7, fighting for their lives) but doctors were unable to save the two girls.

The youngest are the most vulnerable to exposure to toxins of any kind.

The Yeshiva World news site is asking for your prayers.

Dr. Ofir Marin, head of the trauma ward at Shaare Zedek, said the two boys were rapidly deteriorating: “It’s a tough poison that harms all of the systems, and we are fighting for their lives,” Marin told Ynet: “We received information from the poison center in Haifa that there’s no drug that can combat this toxin, which harms every organ in the body.”

Word on the street (in the Hebrew press) is that the exterminator (name withheld as part of a gag order) is being accused of negligence. He is accused of leaving a container of the pesticide inside the family home after he left the premise.

Aluminium phosphide, which also goes by the name phostoxin, was used in the apartment by a certified exterminator, but police when police investigated the scene, they found  “very, very high concentrations” of the pesticide.

Channel 2 reports that there have been 63 cases of hospitalizations in Israel between 2008 and 2012 due to phosphine toxicity.

According to Wikipedia editors: in the 2009 U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health pocket guide, and US Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation, the 8 hour average respiratory exposure should not exceed 0.3 ppm. Short term respiratory exposure to phosphine gas should not exceed 1 ppm. The Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health level is 50 ppm.

Overexposure to phosphine gas causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea; thirst; chest tightness, dyspnea (breathing difficulty); muscle pain, chills; stupor or syncope; pulmonary edema.

I hate how Israelis only listen to common sense after a tragedy like this happens. My house was treated with this pesticide ten years ago and it still kills cockroaches which I find lying belly up on the floor in the first floor of my home. (My husband used it before we were married). I do not allow exterminators in my home in Jaffa, because I know that Israel is a country full of hooligans who give no regard to the dangers of toxic substances.

When I was pregnant with my first my husband wanted to invite exterminators to get rid of our ants and weeds in the garden. I insisted against it. He only listened to me when he found an expert to talk with who knows the dangers of these kinds of chemicals. My husband agreed then to let the ants grow, and our chickens to eat the weeds.

Sometimes we have no choice in the matter when a building superintendent uses pesticides in the hallways or grounds of our buildings. City workers use pesticides freely and the places where we work never consult us about what chemicals they use against pests. It’s time to speak up people and put your future in your own hands.

I see cockroach poison (and smell it) in and around grocery stores all over Israel; I see young people spraying pesticides around town using no protective equipment, and it is in gardens where we let our youngest and most vulnerable play.

As Joni Mitchell says, somewhat prophetically: give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, please.

As for natural ways to kill cockroaches (this advice comes from someone who has a degree in Zoology, with a specialty in Entomology): the simplest way is to seal all holes in your apartment or home, and remove any source of food. Cockroaches cannot live if they don’t have food. Search for egg casings everywhere (they look like small, red pills (see photo below). Put a screen on your window so they can’t fly in. Declutter your life and make your kitchen simple. This way you can find any cockroaches before they lay egg casings.

cockroach egg

Cockroach egg casing, via Shutterstock

Ants are another problem that I battle in the summer: the best way to get rid of them is to be persistant in removing all food from the kitchen counters, and storing perishables in the fridge or freezer. Keep all dry goods sealed tightly and don’t let the kids walk around with cookies (and crumbs). Ants hate Turkish coffee grounds. Use your spent coffee and dump it in an ant hill. The ants will quickly vacate.

Toxic chemicals will not only kill kids, they also lead to a whole host of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s later in life. Read this story here about why more Israeli Arabs are getting Parkinson’s. You’ll freak out and never use pesticides again.

This is a tragic story which I hope will wake up the public to the use of pesticides in homes. But also beware of what’s being used in your courtyards and gardens and public spaces, and schools.

Aluminum phosphide has caused deaths already in Saudi Arabia (a Palestinian woman recently and two Danish kids in 2009), and in the United States; and in Iran it is used to preserve rice. It is known there as a rice tablet. There is a campaign by the Iranian Forensic Medicine Organization to stop its use as a pesticide to kill rodents. Read this case study of poisonings in Iran. Some 19 people died in Iran within a two year period after consuming this poison.

And it comes within a day of a deadly gas explosion in Jerusalem that killed two. Another case of negligence, Middle East style.

Above image of cockroaches and ants from Shutterstock

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4 thoughts on “Pesticide poisoning kills two kids in Jerusalem”

  1. Esther says:

    I have some ants coming into my groundfloor apartment every spring. After I wash all counters for a few days, they will gradually disappear. No need to kill these useful creatures.

    1. Esther says:

      I forgot the most imporant part: … wash the counter with VINEGAR …

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