I made it!
Just like most people, I had ideals of what I would do when I grow up. One of those ideals was having fresh flowers. I just loved the bright feeling that fresh flowers brought to my world.
Naturally, thanks to my rom-com adoration, flowers are an expectation in my relationship. Valentine's Day and Anniversaries are sure deliver a beautiful bouquet (or two, or three). I'm also a fan of the occasional surprise flower delivery to bask in the thought of being loved. Flowers have a constant place on kitchen counter and sometimes on my work desk.
I think you've got the idea.....
So while I've been living my rom-com dreams in real life, I didn't realize that there are people, particularly women, suffering. Women in Columbia and Ecuador are at risk; facing increased mortality, miscarriages, skin rashes and diseases. Women in Kenya are facing sexual harassment and unfair wages to make a seasonal living. All for flowers that we enjoy so freely.
To think, all of this was a simple discovery when I visited the Human and Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta, Ga. What I initially thought would be a visit to learn more about my heritage and the great city of Atlanta, I learned that one of my childhood ideals was putting someone in danger.
Here's the deal, I think supporting a living wage for someone is important. I respect every person, their trade, and expertise. What I don't like is people being put in harms way because they aren't adequately protected.
In 2021, it is projected 224 million flowers were sold on Valentine's Day alone. Producing those flowers are people that are being exposed to dangers. Columbian doctors in the flower producing regions report 5 acute pesticide poisonings a day. Over the past decade, several studies have pointed to exposure to pesticides as a potential cause of prostate and testicular cancers among male floriculturist pesticide applicators and of cervical cancer among females. Some chemicals even have effects on unborn children and last through their development.
I was mortified. I later learned that the National Institute of Health conducted a joint study that concluded around the world, floriculturists are regularly exposed to many toxic pesticides at high concentrations. This fact was true even for developed countries like the United States, Belgium, and Italy.
I could never imagine being a floriculturist, having a love for something so beautiful the Earth has provided us to enjoy, and risking your life just to produce it because of manmade chemicals.
The good news is that there are options for floriculturists to produce beautiful flowers and ensure they go home to their homes in one piece. It takes all of us to make that happen and here's how:
Consumers can drive the market!-- Shop fair trade flower dealers (fairtrade.org is a great starting point)
Join a campaign/movement to influence the supply chain to enforce protections (again fairtrade.org)
Eliminate the harmful chemicals used in the floriculture industry
Educate floriculturists on the hazards of their job
Provide adequate protection, like washing stations and gloves for floriculturists
It's hard to think that something so common, and natural, like a bouquet of flowers could result in miscarriages, poisoning, and genetic defects in an unborn child. Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene is all around us--at weddings, on Valentine's Day, in the pretty arrangement for Mother's Day. The greatest resolution is that there are professionals with the knowledge and passion to protect people and their environment for a better future.
Stay safe folks and help drive change to keep others safe too :-)