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Decontamination Response to Crop-Dusted Teens

PESOTUM-- It's a summer job many have been performing for years: detassling corn in local fields. But few anticipate ending up in the emergency room.

79 teenagers were decontaminated and taken to a local hospital after an anti-fungal spray from a crop-dusting plane blew into their field. Allen Rinehart, director of the Carle Hospital emergency room, says, "Skin irritation is the primary thing that you're looking at. If someone has some type of respiratory illness, et cetera, they breathe it in, they could get some breathing problems, et cetera. Like any chemical, there can be a few people that have significant reactions."

After some teens reported feeling the spray "Come down like rain," 911 was called and crews responded with decontamination units. The children were then bused to the emergency room for further evaluation. Brad Rollings's 13-year old son was one of those affected: "We showed up and before we even made it in the building, they were already out there explaining to us what they knew had happened so far. Said the reports that they had were all the children were fine. There's nothing to be immediately concerned about."

Carle officials say cross-department training between medical units, fire and police departments, and chemical safety teams prepare for situations just like this. The hospital was told to prepare the emergency room for a chemical response, and parents of the children were notified as quickly as possible. Rollings says, "They had people standing outside in the decon unit suits waiting on us. We got met at the front door by a Carle employee, asking what we were here for and we told them we were here for the bus full of detasslers and they put us right in there, explained to us what they knew was going on."

Hospital officials credit the on-site response for preventing any major injuries. Rinehart says, "The job of the folks on the scene is tremendous. I mean there's very few of them, there's a whole lot of kids, they're starting from scratch. They got them out of their clothing, washed off, in new clothing, it was clean, et cetera."

Adam Rife reporting