Illinois farm workers treated for pesticide exposure

Farm Forum

MCLEAN, Ill. (AP) — Officials in central Illinois say about 60 farm workers have been treated after being exposed to pesticides.

McLean County Sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Gamble told the Pantagraph that the workers, including teenagers, started to notice the pesticide’s effects on the morning of July 19 after it was sprayed the previous day.

Mount Hope-Funks Grove Fire Department Chief Eric Fulk said the workers largely suffered skin irritations because they entered the fields too soon after the chemical was sprayed.

The crews were called in from the field and stayed on buses while officials were notified of the incident. The workers were decontaminated with water and soap at a tent set up on the lawn of a nearby farmhouse.

The workers were then transported to a local church and were permitted to go home around 3 p.m. Spokesmen for two area hospitals said no patients had been taken to either facility.

Some of those affected by the pesticide were contract workers of agrochemical company Monsanto.

“The safety of our contract workers is our number one priority,” said Sam Murphey, a Monsanto spokesman. “As soon as crew members reported symptoms, the entire crew was instructed to leave the field, and decontamination started. Right now, our focus is on making sure the workers are OK and receive any care they need. We’ll be fully reviewing the situation in the coming days.”

Tom Bielema, area director for the Peoria office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration, declined to comment on the incident on July 19. The agency has up to six months to finish any investigation.