April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes. May also brings one of those important holidays for which we need to buy flowers for a loved one: Mother’s Day. Over the next week, millions of people will be buying and ordering flowers from local shops or online stores for their mothers, grandmothers, and the other “moms” in their lives.
The possibility that there may be health risks posed by that Mother’s Day bouquet is probably not something that would occur to most of us. But keep in mind that flower industry is a major user of pesticides. So if you’re sending Mom conventionally grown flowers, you may also be sending her a dose of dangerous pesticides.
CEH research director and nationally renowned pesticide expert Caroline Cox shared her insights on the health impacts of the flower industry with us, and they were pretty alarming. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that of the 10 pesticides most widely used to grow greenhouse flowers in California, 4 cause cancer, 3 are toxic to fish, one depletes stratospheric ozone, one causes birth defects, and one is toxic to the nervous system. Hmm. Doesn’t sound like a good list of ingredients for a gift for your mother.
Even more horrifying is that floral workers are exposed to huge amounts of these chemicals on a daily basis. The flowers you buy in the supermarket that don’t come from California are often shipped from Colombia and Ecuador where they are heavily sprayed with pesticides, and raised inside huge factory farms. Some carnations from these farms are even genetically engineered. The flower workers in these countries have daily contact with these toxic chemicals and often are not provided with adequate protective wear. Many develop serious health problems including asthma, skin rashes, and respiratory and neurological problems. What’s more, mothers and pregnant moms-to-be make up a large amount of the floral worker population. For these pregnant women, every day is “take your child to work day,” which may explain the elevated rate of stillbirths and early infant deaths these moms endure. Do you want to support these companies that subject their workers to unsafe conditions when you buy your own mother flowers?
For more information on labor rights violations in Colombia and what you can do to help, click here.
This year, steer clear of supporting these unjust companies and exposing your family to these nasty, dangerous pesticides. In honor of moms and their health, and the health of the workers who bring us our flowers, choose organic when you buy those bouquets. Here are some resources:
1. Your local farmer’s market: There are usually a couple stands selling a wide variety of organic flowers at every farmer’s market. Having all those colorful choices right in front of you makes it easy to pick out a great combination of mom’s favorite varieties too. If you’re not sure where to find local farmers markets, check out Local Harvest’s national database http://www.localharvest.org/ (you can even search for markets that sell flowers).
2. California Organic Flowers (530-891-6265): Statewide flower delivery.
3. Organic Bouquet: http://www.organicbouquet.com/. Convenient online ordering.
4. Phone Order Flower Companies: Manic Organics (678-377-8258), California Organic Flowers (530-891-6265) and Diamond Organics are great alternatives to online sites and make it easy to have an organic flower bouquet sent right to mom’s door. This is especially helpful if you don’t live close enough to see her this Mother’s Day.