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Farmworkers hospitalized after sprayed by crop duster
Ten farmworkers, two in serious condition, were transported to the hospital Friday night after a crop duster sprayed them with chemicals while they were working in a field west of Avenue G and County 12th Street.
Emergency personnel with Rural/Metro responded to the scene at about 7:30 p.m. At first they were told only two farmworkers had been sprayed, but once on site the first responders found the “crop duster had also passed over two field worker buses, which gives us 40 more patients,” said Rural/Metro Captain Don Graham.
Many of the farmworkers were complaining of irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and skin after being exposed to the agricultural chemicals.
Because of the large number of patients involved, Rural/Metro was assisted by the Yuma Fire Department and the Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department.
Emergency personnel with Rural/Metro and YFD set up a portable decontamination zone at the site while Yuma County Sheriff's deputies cordoned off the area.
The process of decontaminating each farmworker involved stripping them down and then rinsing them off with a fire hose. The situation was made even more unpleasant because the temperature was in the mid-50s.
“Unfortunately it is cold,” Graham said. “I have had it done to me, and it is necessary. The chemical involved is a mild skin, eye and throat irritant. You just don't want it on you.”
After being sprayed off by a firehose, the patients were given gowns and blankets “to keep them warm,” Graham continued, adding those who were transported to Yuma Regional Medical Center were placed in the back of ambulances in which heaters were operating. After initial decontamination, at least 10 farmworkers were sent to YRMC for additional treatment.
Rural/Metro would not release the name of the chemical used in the incident, but noted the fungicide and insecticide mixture can cause coma in large amounts. However, Graham did not believe the farmworkers had been exposed to enough of the agchemical to cause a coma.
He said the dose they were exposed to was not full strength since the chemical had been mixed with water before being sprayed by the crop duster.
“We are talking ounces to cover an entire acre,” Graham said.
Rural/Metro would not release the name of the crop dusting company responsible for the incident, and the Yuma County Sheriff's Department personnel on scene refused to comment.No other information was available as of press time Friday.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.