BBC exposes poison fears

BBC journalists have discovered a worrying laxity over the sale of dangerous chemicals by Britain’s pest control industry at a time of heightened national concern about such substances, writes Wale Azeez.

By using a false identity and a credit card, makers of the BBC1 consumer investigations programme Rogue Traders found out how strict government regulations covering the sale of dangerous chemicals and poisons are being flouted.

The sale of such substances is normally controlled under the 1972 Poisons Act, which requires the buyer to sign a poisons book and the seller to obtain confirmation that the purchaser works within the profession stated in the order.

But Rogue Traders journalists were able to obtain from one company pesticide capsules containing aluminium phosphide which produce a deadly poison gas, with few questions asked and no proof of identity required.

Presenter Matt Allwright, pictured right, told Press Gazette that obtaining the poisons under fake trading name Simply The Pest was “alarmingly easy”.

“We were amazed at how they were quite happy to deliver the poison on the basis of a credit card and a made-up name. At no time were we asked for verification of what we are about.”

The revelations come at a time of particular sensitivity over dangerous chemicals and poisons following the discovery of the poison ricin in the UK.

Because of this, programme makers were forced to make the editorial decision not to name the products in question.

“An interesting dilemma arose,” said Allwright. “Do you bury the story because you don’t want to produce a handbook for wannabe terrorists, or do you get this out into the light of day? “In the end, the programme was more about the process and the fact it’s an avenue that hasn’t been shut down.”

The firm that sold the poisons said its normal vetting procedure had been “circumvented”.

Wale Azeez

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