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      Push to Regulate Pest Extermination After Family Poisoning

      Gross family poisoning inspires bill to regulate extermination. If passed, pesticides will only be distributed by licensed professionals.
      By Tova Dvorin
      First Publish: 2/23/2014, 9:58 AM

      Gross family, after recovery (illustration)
      Gross family, after recovery (illustration)
      Flash90

      Tougher regulations for pesticide poisoning are being discussed Sunday in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, according to Ma'ariv, in light of the tragic poisoning ordeal the Gross family suffered in Jerusalem last month. The bill is reportedly expected to pass the Committee and has already garnered support from several ministers. 

      Currently, a large number of the exterminators in Israel are unlicensed "pest extermination assistants," a profession which has no standardized qualifications whatsoever, according to the daily, and thus can provide limited services for lower prices.

      Sunday's proposal stipulates that only professionals licensed by the Ministry for Environmental Protection would be able to handle or work with pesticides. Moreover, instead of licensing companies, the bill would mandate that each individual require a license, which would require renewal every five years and be non-transferable. Licensed professionals would not only have to display the license during each job, but also attend seminars and ongoing courses to remain knowledgeable about safety requirements and new developments in the field, according to the bill. 

      The penalty for endangering the public through illegal pesticide use would be 904,000 shekel (approximately $258,000) if the bill passes. In addition, the Ministry for Environmental Protection would be able to levy hefty fines - 10,000 shekel ($2853) for individuals and 50,000 ($14,270) for corporations. 

      The bill also calls for the Ministry to directly supervise training programs for extermination professionals and administer the certification testing. As of now, the Ministry determines the content for certification testing, but does not actually supervise the testing process. More than 60% of future exterminators currently fail the certification exam.

      Finally, the bill would also establish a ministerial committee for pesticide regulation. The committee would meet regularly to discuss updates in the field and publish a registered list of approved pesticide agents. Updates and developments in the extermination policies in Israel would be published regularly for the sake of public safety. 

      Minister for Environmental Protection Amir Peretz welcomed the initiative. 

      "With this legislation we can close all the loopholes that existed to ensure the safety of the Israeli public," Peretz stated. "A legal situation in which the exterminator can work without being licensed creates unnecessary risks. The new law, if passed, will introduce significant changes [to the system] - providing licenses and ensuring both regular monitoring and enforcement." 

      The Gross family poisoning occurred after an exterminator left a highly toxic material, phosphine, in the apartment's enclosed security room, also known as the "Mamad" or bomb shelter.

      Apparently, the security room's seal was less effective than the storage requirements for the chemical require, and the poison spread throughout the apartment over several days.

      Rescue officials at the scene were shocked to discover that the chemical's toxicity was at the highest levels of the spectrum. The exterminator, Yosef Nataf, was arrested and an investigation launched. 

      The entire Gross family was poisoned within a few days of the chemical being released. Parents Shimon and Michal only recently finished the shiva traditional Jewish mourning period for their two girls, Yael and Avigail (2 and 4), who were killed in the poisoning; they also stayed in Schneider Medical Center to monitor the recovery of their sons, Michael (7) and Yitzhak (5), who were critically ill for weeks due to the phosphine's effects. The Gross family finally went home after their ordeal last week.