Magazine article New Internationalist

Blighting Blooms: Pesticides Poison Colombian Workers

Magazine article New Internationalist

Blighting Blooms: Pesticides Poison Colombian Workers

Article excerpt

IT'S a contradiction,' says the doctor sombrely. 'Work is meant to embrace your well - being. But here the more people work the worse their health gets. The future looks bleak for these women.'

Dr Emilio Reyes (names have been changed to protect anonymity) stands outside the small regional hospital where he has practised for the past five years. He has seen all the illnesses the area has to offer, particularly those of its main employer, the flower industry. In the background a woman arrives, helped to the hospital door by two colleagues. She is trembling, unable to speak clearly, her face very pale.

The doctor says she is one of up to five a day who arrive acutely poisoned at work. Pesticide poisoning: this is the price, for some workers, of Colombia's flower industry, the second largest in the world and the second largest exporter of flowers to the UK after Holland.

In the plastic - sheeted greenhouses which line the broad, fertile plains of Bogota's savannah, dozens of pesticides -- some of them banned in Europe and the US -- are routinely sprayed to give the flowers the perfect look they need for European or US markets. …

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