Study finds smelling flowers hazardous
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, which triggers a huge demand for flowers, an international food organization issued a warning on the toll pesticides used in the flower growing takes on flower workers.
FIAN, an international human rights organization that has been for the right to food for more than 20 years and which has a network in the Philippines, disclosed the results of a study that showed the adverse health impact of pesticides in Ugandan flower production for the European market.
FIAN called attention to the European campaign “Fair Flowers—for Human Rights” and its study on the toxic effects of pesticides in flower production to back up its warning.
The study was conducted by a partner in the campaign, the Uganda Workers’ Education Association (UWEA).
Prodded by the study’s alarming findings, campaign organizers are demanding stricter controls on pesticide residue on flowers imported by the European Union, and are asking that the country of origin of imported flowers should be indicated.
UWEA is urging public institutions, flower traders, and consumers to buy “socially and environmentally produced flowers.”
There are as yet no environmental, health, or labor watchdogs checking whether flower farm workers in the Philippines are exposed to the danger or how they are being protected when handling pesticides, in spite of the vigilance of advocates for organic food production.
FIAN said the study showed that flower workers in all areas of production were exposed to pesticides.
It said that more than 40 percent of the interviewed workers never used protective equipment. Because of lack or inadequate protective equipment and limited knowledge on the recommended use of pesticides, a large number of workers showed symptoms that were “very likely the consequences of pesticide exposure.”
Ugandan workers, FIAN noted, had reported problems such as chest discomfort, skin irritation, headaches, and sleep disorders. Workers in other flower-producing countries had reported similar ailments.
“The lack of adequate protection is caused by employers’ ruthless ignorance of national and international occupational health and security standards,” said Sophie Vessel of FIAN Austria.
“The respective governments lack the political will to control the implementation of labor laws,” said Gertrud Falk of FIAN Germany.