Report: U.K. Marines May Have Been Exposed to Albania Mustard Gas

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 3, 2014, 8:51 a.m.

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.

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