MARSHALL COUNTY, Iowa -- A local school bus driver is concerned after he says some of the kids he took to a field to detassel corn may have been exposed to chemicals.
This past weekend, Kurt Bowermaster was hired by Monsanto to drive about two dozen teens from Newton to a field near Laurel to detassel corn. That's when he first spotted a crop duster spraying an adjacent field.
"We were like, 'well, he's pretty close to our field. Should we be concerned?'" Bowermaster said, "We thought that even before we went in the field."
But the kids went into the field anyhow, as the plane got closer and closer. "He was coming way low to the field and then come up and as he was coming up I could see the chemicals coming off the back of the plane," Bowermaster recalled. "And some of the kids were coming out of the field at this point and saying, 'Hey, that crop duster is spraying that field over there' and they're all getting concerned."
So Bowermaster says he called his supervisor and a Monsanto nurse to come over. "While this is all happening the kids are sitting by the bus, there's probably ten of them. They're sitting taking a break, and the supervisor says 'Why are the kids here? Why aren't they in the field working?' And I explained because several of them have told me they think they can smell the chemical. And so they're concerned. They don't want to be in the field. And the nurse and the supervisor said, 'I can tell you they haven't been contaminated.'"
So Bowermaster says he pushed the issue with the nurse, who he says, never even talked with the kids. "And I said, 'if I'm wearing a strong cologne, and you can spell it on me, it's drifting to you, is that correct? So if we can smell chemicals that to me means it's drifting into our area if we can smell them.' She said 'no it's not the same thing. It's totally not the same thing.'"
All of the teenagers were students at Basics and Beyond, an alternative high school in Newton for troubled teenagers. One of their teachers was with them. He didn't want to go on camera but he told Channel 13 he didn't feel the kids were in any danger, and he feels they were just slacking off and trying to get out of working.
Bowermaster was not able to see the serial number on the tail of the plane, so we don't know what chemicals were being sprayed.
Monsanto did release a statement saying: "Our site medical and supervisory personnel were on hand, pulled the crew from the seed field, evaluated the situation, and determined that it was safe for our crews to return to work after the crop duster finished spraying the nearby commercial corn field."
When the kids refused, another crew was sent into the field, and the original kids were sent home for the season. Bowermaster says, it just doesn't seem right.
"The way I was trained by Monsanto there was a certain protocol to handle situations like this and I feel somebody dropped the ball."