More than 20 British marines reportedly have developed mysterious skin blisters following a 2013 drill near a former chemical-arms site in Albania.
Several dozen of the Royal Marines involved in a September 2013 training exercise on Sazan Island had to seek medical help afterwards. Some troops suspect the skin blisters they developed are a sign of mustard-agent contamination, the Western Morning News reported on Wednesday. The island is reported to house former Soviet chemical and biological weapon-production sites.
“No one knows what caused the skin problems,” an anonymous military source told the newspaper. “No one has worked it out yet. Men were rolling around in grass and in buildings. We thought it may be the effects of old mustard gas.”
The U.K. defense ministry said the symptoms could have resulted from coming into contact with the giant hogweed plant, which produces a poisonous sap that can cause bad skin irritation.
However, a different marine source said that troops had gloves on their hands during the exercise and “there was no skin showing.”
A ministry official said no continuous symptoms had been reported by any marines and that “no further Royal Marine exercise activity on Sazan Island is currently planned.”
Albania declared its destruction of a small chemical arsenal in 2007.