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Customs Dept's inability to carry out its mandate

Published:Thursday | October 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM


On March 28, 2013, the Jamaica Customs Department was given the status of executive agency to fully perform as such effective April 2, 2013. One of its mandates is to protect Jamaica's borders against illicit imports. However, following the recent resurfacing of black mosquito coils, I can't help but question the ability of agency to carry out such a role.

As far back as 2012, the Pesticide Control Authority issued a stern warning against importing, selling and using black mosquito coils. Yet, with the current outbreak of chikungunya, some Jamaicans have once again been able to turn to the highly toxic product. But how is it that the product is readily available? Why is there an abundance on the streets of downtown Kingston, for instance?

This is the only good thing that has come out of the chikungunya epidemic. All the weaknesses in the country's administrative infrastructure, particularly in health and security, are slowly being exposed.

As we've heard during a local news broadcast, people are regularly burning this coil in their homes. Many of them are undoubtedly present while this happens. That is a disturbing trend.

From what I've read, the black mosquito coil is one of 11 coils that have been found to contain dimefluthrin and allethrin. Smoke containing these two chemicals is a health hazard, especially to those who inhale concentrated amounts. It is particularly harmful to children and pregnant women.

Consumers would not even be aware of these contents or know best practice because the manufacturer's label on the various brands tends to not be in English. The language barrier could be the cause of an avoidable trip to the hospitals, which are already under pressure.

It is even more disturbing that this illegal product enters our ports and eludes customs officers. The agency seems more efficient at collecting revenue, which is another of its three mandates. Well, collecting fees and duties isn't the only important responsibility in facilitating trade. Proactive steps must be taken to curb usage and remove the coil from the market.

Yohan Leeyohan

St Andrew