(NaturalNews) More than 350 members of a Texas high school's marching band were sent home and told to thoroughly shower and sanitize their instruments after a plane flying overhead doused them with pesticides. Reports indicate that the students, who attend Pearland High School near Houston, were outside practicing when a city plane flew by, dumping chemicals meant for mosquito extermination.
According to reports, the incident happened around 8 a.m. on August 7, when a plane from the Brazoria County Mosquito Control District (BCMCD) flew over a parking lot next to the school's football stadium. When administrators figured out what was going on, they told band members to go inside. But it was too late, as the toxins had already been released.
"It was pretty much right over us," said Pearland band member Karleigh Fletcher to KHOU 11 News. "I was just surprised, if it was really pesticide, why would they be doing it over 300 kids?"
The pilot of the plane claims that he didn't see the children in the lot, and BCMCD quickly tried to save face by claiming that the pesticide was "low level," meaning that it isn't particularly harmful. At the same time, the school called emergency medical services and sent all the children home anyway, instructing them to take 25-minute showers and to carefully clean their instruments.
"It was a freak accident," claimed Pearland Principal Larry Berger, as quoted by USA Today. "They didn't know we were here and we didn't know they were coming."
Despite the alleged accident, BCMCD indicated to the media that it planned to continue spraying the area the following day. The school, meanwhile, said it would move band practice indoors to avoid direct contact with the toxic spray, which reportedly caused some students to experience respiratory irritation, sneezing and rashes.
Low-flying pesticide plane would have clearly seen 350 human beings with shiny instruments
Discontent with BCMCD's dismissal that the whole thing was a big mistake, however, some are now questioning how the pilot of the pesticide plane could have missed more than 350 human beings lined up in formation in an empty parking lot. The types of planes that spray mosquito pesticides typically fly very low, and pilots are trained to look out for humans who might be harmed by the spray.
"If it was your average low-flying crop-duster type plane, there's no way the pilot could miss a crowd of 300+ people," wrote one USA Today commenter.
Others have expressed concerns about the long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals, which were not only breathed in but also sprayed on the students' skin at high amounts. Though the reported acute reactions were relatively minor, long-term damage in the form of asthma or even cancer must be considered.
"Band directors/coaches are in charge of their environments outside of Mother Nature- other districts mandate that they keep abreast of issues like this," wrote another commenter at the Houston Chronicle. "Was there any public notification by the City/County officials at all about the spraying? Spraying affects ALL residents/employees of the area, not just the students."