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February 10, 2023

Are pesticides lurking in your Valentine’s Day roses?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you may be considering gifts to buy for your loved ones. Flowers – often red roses – are amongst the top five most popular gifts for Valentine’s Day, but what sort of chemicals are used in their production, and are there any health effects to consider?

The use of pesticides in flower production

There is no limit to the number of pesticides that can be sprayed on flowers, as they are not classed as a consumable product. This has led to many flowers being sprayed heavily throughout their growing and shipping processes.


Research conducted in 2018 found ten different pesticides had been used on mixed bouquets, including harmful and banned pesticides. Seven times more pesticides are used to grow roses than to grow maize, in order to keep the flowers looking fresh and elongate their shelf life.


Pesticides are classed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which are ‘forever chemicals’ that stay in the environment long after their first use. These are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which can add to your body burden and may increase your risk of developing health conditions.

Are florists more exposed to pesticides in their work?

Florists handle cut flowers daily and therefore are known to have an increased risk of exposure via absorption through the skin, as residues remain on stems, petals, and foliage. Many florists do not wear gloves or protective clothing when handling flowers for long periods of time, and therefore might be increasing their risk of pesticides entering their body.


Studies have found that this increased exposure to pesticides can lead to pesticide-related illnesses and even genetic damage for some florists and flower growers.

Say it with organic flowers

There are some easy ways to reduce the chances of pesticide exposure when gifting flowers to a loved one.

Try going organic and grow and pick your own seasonal flowers at home, ensuring that no pesticides are used in the growing process and your transportation emissions will be non-existent.


If you buy seasonal, locally grown flowers ask about any pesticides that may have been used in the growing process.


It’s also worth wearing gloves and washing your hands when handling flowers if you’re not sure if they’ve been grown using pesticides.


Visit the online directory Flowers from the Farm which promotes British grown flowers and is great place to start when looking for flowers grown locally and in a sustainable way.

What’s the environmental impact of cut flowers?

The cut flower industry in the UK is worth more than £1.3bn. Around 90% of these flowers are imported, which impacts on emissions due to the transportation and refrigeration involved in making flowers available all year round.


There is no legal requirement to include the country of origin on shop-bought flowers, so the environmental impact of imported flowers like roses is likely to be much greater than we realise.


Flowers are often wrapped in single-use plastic packaging and floral displays are often created using materials that end up in landfill, where they can release toxic gases into the environment.


Further reading: Pesticides and our health: a growing concern

Lasting Health