Renewable Energy Living: Floriculture Pesticides, Sustainable Beer and Recycled Tire Rubber

The Green Gazette column shares renewable energy living topics, including floriculture pesticides, sustainable beer production and recycled tire rubber can leak zinc into the soil.

| April/May 2003

  • The green gazette covers renewable energy living topics like floriculture pesticides.
    The green gazette covers renewable energy living topics like floriculture pesticides.

  • The green gazette covers renewable energy living topics like floriculture pesticides.

The Green Gazette column focuses on renewable energy living topics, this issue includes floriculture pesticides, making sustainable beer and recycled tire rubber.

Floriculture Pesticides

Picking a perfect posy isn't as simple as it used to be. Although today's fresh cut-flower industry has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar business, producing more than 100 million flowers every year, the picture isn't all so rosy, says David Tenenbaum in a May 2002 report in Environmental Health Perspectives. While floriculture work has opened up employment opportunities for about 190,000 people in countries like Colombia. Mexico and India, prodigious pesticide use in gigantic greenhouses, where they process tons of flowers each year, threatens worker health and safety, jeopardizes renewable energy living, the environment and could impact consumer health.

To raise ravishingly red roses and other flawless flowers in controlled environments, many greenhouses rely on large quantities of pesticides. More than half of all cut flowers sold in the United States are imported from countries that have fewer restrictions on pesticide use. Rut even flowers grown in the States have been found to he contaminated with pesticide residues. California-grown roses were found to have 1,000 times the level of cancer-causing pesticides as comparable food products, according to a 1997 Environmental Working Group study.

Improper handling, storage and application of toxic chemicals not informing workers of pesticide exposure hazards, and the lax enforcement of protective-gear use greatly endangers worker health. In 1990, a report in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health documented use of 127 different pesticides in Colombian greenhouses. A March 2000 article published in Mutation Research reported the use of 36 different chemicals in Morelos State, Mexico, flower greenhouses, including those banned or restricted in the United States, like DDT.

Many of these pesticides, such as organophosphates, are potent neurotoxins — acting on the nervous system — and genotoxins — negatively affect reproductive health. Epidemiologist Jaime Breihl of the Ecohealth Project of the Health Research and Advisory Center in Quito, Ecuador, says that almost two-thirds of greenhouse workers report headache, blurred vision and dizziness, which can be manifestations of neurotoxicity. Among these workers, increases in miscarriages, congenital malformations in their new born children, reduced ability to conceive and lower sperm counts also have been reported. In California, ornamental plants were among the top five crops associated with acute pesticide poisonings.

Propagating perfect, pest-free petals also contributes to a poisoned planet. From stern to store, flowers travel an average distance of 1,500 mile, adding significantly to global warming and pollution. Every three hours, one 35-ton cargo plane departs Colombia, jetting flowers around the globe. In some areas, floriculture s liberal use cal groundwater has caused water tables to drop. And reports have documented "direct discharge of pesticides and washing of pesticide equipment in waterways, and runoff reaching important aquifer areas," says Claudette Mo, former professor at the Regional Wildlife Management Program of the National University of Costa Rica.


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