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The Ugly Side of the Cut Flower Industry

  • Written by Escape The Illusion No Comments Comments
    Last Updated: February 12, 2011

    By Erica Hamilton.

    Pesticides, worker exploitation and environmental degradation.

    Where do those lovely Valentine’s Day flowers in supermarkets and florist shops come from? If you live in North America, chances are they come from Latin America, where they were cultivated, selected, arranged and packed by young impoverished women hoping to earn a living wage to support their families. Unfortunately, these women are subject to working conditions set by an industry that seems to maximize profits at the expense of human health and environmental degradation.
    The Environmental Working Group reported that cut flower workers are exposed to approximately 100 different kinds of pesticides, often without protective gear.

    Many cut-flower workers are exposed to a class of pesticides called dithiocarbamates. In the short-term, dithiocarbamates seem relatively benign; they can irritate the skin and they are not considered poisonous.

    But long-term exposure is associated with abnormal thyroid function and reproductive birth defects in animals. Additionally, when they are absorbed internally (which could occur through the skin), they turn into another chemical that is carcinogenic (information from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection).

    Pesticide exposure likely contributes to high rates of miscarriage among pregnant cut flower workers and birth defects among their children. Other factors include the long working hours–reportedly as much as 20 hours a day during the weeks before Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day–and the hot temperatures in greenhouses.
    Floriculture drains groundwater and pollutes surface water.

    The environmental impact of….

    Read more at ELEPHANT JOURNAL

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