Not every high school junior is comfortable sending an email to an editor, asking for a chance to tell his story. But then not every junior farm boy has a story to tell as captivating as Joel Waterman's story. The Noblesville youngster is a student at Hamilton Southeastern High school, and a member of the Hamilton Southeastern FFA. Tom Younts, veteran ag teacher, is his advisor.
"My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a couple years ago," Waterman explains. "He's a farmer, and is still farming today. As a family, we searched for information about causes and cures.
"We found some indication that one possible cause could be exposure to pesticides. I'm not on a crusade against pesticides. However, I do want to make farmers aware that they need to limit their exposure to pesticides and take steps to avoid contact whenever possible."
Some things Waterman suggests are spraying with a tractor with a ca instead of an open-seated tractor that allows more herbicide to drift onto the operator. He also likes pulling a tandem sprayer instead of a mounted sprayer, so that the herbicide application is farther behind the person driving the tractor.
Fred Whitford, director of Purdue University pesticide4 programs, says that if you're only going to do one thing to protect yourself when handling and mixing chemicals and herbicide solution, then wear gloves. He recommends wearing a pair of nitrile gloves whenever working with chemicals.
While he's not aware of any proof that ties pesticide exposure to Parkinsons', he does say that there have been studies proving that pesticide levels show up in urine and blood of sloppy operators, compared to those who handle pesticides more carefully. The same studies also show that if the father is sloppy with chemicals and shows levels of pesticides in the blood, there is a greater chance that his son will also be sloppy with these products and carry traces in his blood as well.
Waterman and his family want to support adult stem cell research in the quest for a cure for Parkinsons. They started a foundation, the Indiana Parkinson Foundation, to accept support from people who believe in the same cause that they do. Due to moral beliefs, they can't support research that uses embryonic stem cells.
If you're interested, the Website to check out is: www.indianaparkinson.org.