Florists exposed to high levels of pesticides

Photo credit: Liz West

Flowers grown for the floral industry commonly are treated with pesticides. As a result, florists who handle a large number of flowers on a daily basis may experience significant on-the-job exposure to pesticide residues. A new study by researchers in Belgium sought to understand the extent of pesticide exposure that florists were experiencing through skin contact with flowers. Twenty Belgian florists wore cotton gloves for two days while working with flowers. The scientists then collected the gloves to test the types and amounts of pesticides transferred from the flowers to the gloves. In total, researchers detected over 100 different chemicals, mainly composted of insecticides and fungicides, and each individual florist was exposed to an average of 37 different chemicals. Levels of some substances also exceeded the level considered safe.  For instance, the pesticide clofentezine was found at levels four times the Acceptable Operator Exposure Level. “The exposure of florists appeared to be an example of a unique professional situation in which workers are exposed regularly to both a very high number of toxic chemicals and rather high concentration levels,” the authors concluded.