URBANA, Ill. (AP) — Almost 80 teenagers were sent home from
an eastern Illinois hospital July 25 after being accidentally sprayed with
fungicide from a crop-dusting plane as they worked in cornfield, officials said.
The 79 teens were decontaminated by firefighters at the
field just outside Pesotum and then taken to the Carle Foundation Hospital’s
emergency room in Urbana to be treated for what appeared to be minor ailments,
hospital officials said.
Emergency room director Allen Rinehart said some of the teen
workers had irritated skin, but that they were all stable and being released to
their parents as they were seen.
“There’s been a couple that have had minor irritations, but
nothing significant,” Rinehart said as the last group of teens, wearing blue
jumpsuits and many carrying coolers and lunch boxes, stood nearby waiting to
enter the emergency room. Many joked and talked as they waited.
The teenagers were detasseling corn when the chemical
drifted over them from a plane that was crop-dusting an adjacent field, said Tom
Helscher, a spokesman for Monsanto, the St. Louis-based company using the field
to produce seed corn. Pesotum is about 15 miles south of Urbana.
Brad Rollings’ 13-year-old son, Tyler, was one of those
sprayed with the chemical.
“He said that he heard the plane go over the top, and it
felt like it was raining for a minute, and then he said they hollered at them to
get out of the field,” Rollings, who is from nearby Villa Grove, said outside
the hospital. He said his son seemed fine.
“As soon as he called me, he kept telling me over and over,
‘Dad, I’m fine, you don’t need to come pick me up,”‘ Rollings said.
The accident happened just before 8:40 a.m., Champaign
County acting Deputy Fire Chief Dave Ferber said. The department’s firefighters
helped decontaminate the teens with soap and water, he said.
Spokesmen for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration and state Bureau of Environmental Programs said the agencies are
investigating the incident.
Detasselers — commonly teenagers looking for summer jobs —
pull the pollinating tassels off the top of corn plants that will produce seed
for future planting.
The teens were working for Team Corn, a Princeton-based
company that contracts for Monsanto, a woman who answered the company’s phone
said before referring further questions to Monsanto.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the chemical was or who
flew the plane.
Federal workplace safety regulations allow children as young
as 12 to work on farms in jobs that OSHA doesn’t consider hazardous provided
their parents’ consent. Detasseling is one of those jobs. Even younger children
can do some types of farm work under certain conditions.
According to Team Corn’s website, the company hires
detasselers as young as 12 for work across Illinois, while teens have to be 14
to be hired in Iowa and Indiana.
Pay ranges from $7.25 to $10 an hour, depending on the
workers’ speed and ability, according to the website. Work crews are led by
leaders who must be at least 17, according to the site.
Rollings said he worked as a detasseler as a child and
wouldn’t hesitate to let his son return to the job.
“I have no concerns about it whatsoever,” he said.
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