Flowers are frequently treated with pesticides and, as a result, florists handling daily a large number of flowers can be exposed to pesticide residues. A study was conducted among twenty volunteer florists located in Namur Province and in the Brussels Capital Region of Belgium in order to assess their potential dermal exposure to dislodgeable pesticide residues transferred from flowers to hands. Two pairs of cotton gloves were worn during two consecutive half days while handling flowers and preparing bouquets (from min 2 h to max 3 h/day). The residual pesticide deposits on the glove samples were extracted with a multi-residue Quick Easy Cheap Effective Rugged Safe (QuEChERS) method and analyzed by a combination of gas and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS and LC-MS/MS) by an accredited laboratory. A total of 111 active substances (mainly insecticides and fungicides) were detected, with an average of 37 active substances per sample and a total concentration per glove sample of 22.22 mg/kg. Several predictive levels of contamination were considered to assess the risk. The potential dermal exposures (PDE) of florists were estimated at the average, for different percentiles, and at the maximum concentration of residues in samples. At the PDE P90 and at the PDEMAX
(or worst case) values, three and five active substances respectively exceed the Acceptable Operator Exposure Level (AOEL), indicating risk situations. For the systemic exposure (SE), one active substance (clofentezine) exceeds the AOEL at the P90 predictive level. In the worst case, SEMAX
(at the maximum concentrations), four active substances (clofentezine, famoxadone, methiocarb, and pyridaben) exceed their respective AOEL values. Among the 14 most frequently detected active substances, two have SEMAX
values exceeding the AOEL. Exposure could be particularly critical for clofentezine with an SEMAX
value four times higher than the AOEL (393%). 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. Therefore the priority should be to raise the level of awareness among the florists who must change their habits and practices if they want to minimize their exposure.
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