A story on the wires about a paper in the journal Epidemiology this month (November) confirms what other work has shown: those beautiful flowers we buy in American florist shops have an added price attached to them, paid by the children of Central America. Epidemiology is one of the top tier journals in the field of epidemiology, but I don't have access to my copy, which is at work (and I'm not), so I'm working off wire service copy (Reuters Health). From what I know of the subject, however, the account is likely accurate. Here's the gist:
In a study from Ecuador, babies and toddlers born to women employed in the cut-flower industry during pregnancy showed poorer communication and fine motor skills than children whose mothers were not flower workers.
These children were also nearly five times as likely to have vision problems, the study team found.
Pesticides are used heavily in the cut-flower industry, especially organophosphates, carbamates, and dithiocarbamates, and animal studies suggest exposure to these chemicals before birth may impair neurological development both in the womb and in infancy and childhood. (Anne Harding, Reuters Health)
Alexis J. Handal and her colleagues at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque used neurodevelopmental testing on 121 children, ages 3 to 23 months, to see if there were differences in fine motorl skills, communication and other neuropsych measures. 52 of the 121 children had mothers who worked in the cut-flower industry while the children were in utero. Test results for communication and fine motor skills were lower for the cut-flower parented children. Decreases of 8% and 13% on scores are reported, but what that translates into is not given in the news articles. However these tests are fairly crude measures of neurodevelopment, so the significant differences seen in this study are worrisome. A more conventional and understandable measure, visual acuity problems, were almost 5 times as likely in the exposed children.
The authors note that working in the cut-flower industry pays a decent wage, although the work hours are long and physically arduous, the more so for pregnant women. It is still not clear the extent to which pesticides or the difficult work conditions are responsible for the observed results, which seem, like the flowers, pretty clear cut.
The cut-flower industry is an important part of the economies of a number of
Central South American countries, like Ecuador and Columbia and it employs a disproportionate number of women in their reproductive years.
Another reason to amend trade laws to assure fair labor standards. Few of us would trade brightening our house with flowers from the florist for the health of a child.
The cut-flower industry is an important part of the economies of a number of Central American countries, like Ecuador and Columbia and it employs a disproportionate number of women in their reproductive years.
Ecuador and Colombia are in South America.
llewelly: Of course they are. But my brain isn't! Thanks. My face is red.
Imposition of our laws onto another country Revere? While I agree this might, emphasize might be a problem this is more of the leftist bent that the world has taken. Having been to Columbia several dozen times and Ecuador probably 10 or 15 you are right, they do make a decent wage at it. Pregnant women and those exposed to pesticides are a problem for the entire world but you would have us amend our trade laws?
This is like intervention in Darfur and other places and really only US/Iraq light. You guys are all over Bush for intervention in country that ostensibly had nothing to do with 9/11 and the deaths that it caused. Thats very debatable. But this isnt. I dont think that the Columbians who are the farmers want to have their lives being dictated by Washington DC because if I read most of your posts about Iraq, the world hates us because we took action and made a muckety-muck out of it.
Whats the difference here? Lack of bombing and hostilities. You could sit back and say well they arent having birth defects and the like because of it, but it would be because they were out of a job. We have no legal standing in their country or ours theirs. This is nothing but intervention in something that doesnt concern us. The Chinese make tons less than we do but because we shipped all of our jobs overseas we are not polluting our environment here. But now they generate more than any other country in the world and it drifts all the way across the Pacific to us. Whats the difference? Do you think that the Chinese give one big crap what we think as long as their people are employed.
Your logic in this defies my ability to understand how you can separate these two countries as possible sources of low intelligence and motor skills and forget the other countries of the world that are malnourished. Will we quit trading with them because they are working in substandard conditions to what we say they should be? Heck no. Why in the world would you think that flowers are the issue. Its not. Present the Columbians/Ecuadorans with the facts (if there are any) and then let them make their own decisions rather than trying to come up with yet another unenforceable mandate created by the Congress of the United States. Personally if I was a Columbian and I was losing my job because of pesticides used in my country, I would be mighty pissed off. The US and its reach is long and deep, but this one we need to stay out of. Self determination is one of the first things in the UN Charter and it doesnt start with we the people of the United States think that you need to be doing something that we feel is unsafe.
Thats my opinion on it and I respect yours of course and I dont disagree that its not a good idea. But mandating from DC the actions of these countries?
Extortion is another word for it.
Randy: These are treaties or legal agreements between sovereign states. They are a common practice in the international system. You may not like them but they are a fact. We are free to make them or unmake them, as long as we follow internationally accepted legal processes as well as US laws. On the economic side, by allowing countries we trade with to produce goods cheaply through unfair labor practices, we allow them an unfair competitive advantage. It is bad for the US, an argument I would think would appeal to you. That is not my motive, of course. I am motivated by public health concerns and I don't see the difference between and Ecuadoran and an American child. But that's just me, perhaps.
Its not a treaty that anyone in Columbia or Ecuador would sign in their right minds. Its not about children... its about economic freedom not to be impinged upon by another country. We dont HAVE to buy the flowers. We dont need yet another piece of legislation to force another country to do something. If someone is concerned, then dont buy the flowers. Its pretty simple really. What do we do if they have a commodity that we must have here, threaten their flower business? Its not a negotiation its strong arming.
I say let Columbia and Ecuadorans make their own decisions. Its like whaling. You dont have to buy perfume either.
The free trade agreement we've set up will unfortunately allow women to continue to be effected by hazardess working conditions. Countries like Columbia and Ecudaor import nearly 90% of the flowers we buy.