Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 18:53 UK

Fears over mustard gas at beach

Map showing Whiteford Sands, Gower
The shell was discovered at the beach on north Gower

Visitors to a popular beach may have been exposed to mustard gas, say health chiefs in Wales.

A shell was disabled at Whiteford Sands in north Gower, near Swansea, by Army bomb disposal experts on Thursday.

Two members of the disposal team were later treated in hospital after developing symptoms consistent with potential exposure to mustard gas.

Visitors to the beach between 24 and 28 September who develop symptoms are urged to seek medical advice.

Experts from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) found a small amount of mustard gas, also known as sulphur mustard, may have been released during the disposal of the device.

I would emphasise that there is no risk to anyone who visited other beaches in the Gower area
Huw Brunt, National Public Health Service for Wales

The affected area of the beach was cordoned off on Monday and decontamination was completed the following day.

But the area has still not been given the all clear and warning signs have been erected to keep people away from the stretch of beach.

Huw Brunt, of the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: "We are aware of the potential health risks associated with exposure to sulphur mustard exposure, but consider the risks to be low in this instance.

"Nevertheless, if visitors to the affected area of beach between these dates have developed symptoms or have any health-related concerns, they should contact their GP as soon as possible for advice.

"I would emphasise that there is no risk to anyone who visited other beaches in the Gower area."

Skin irritation

Mustard gas is a chemical warfare agent and can be absorbed through both covered and uncovered skin, through the eyes and, on rare occasions, through inhalation.

The substance does not usually cause any ill-health at the time of exposure, but symptoms may develop from between four to six hours later or up to two to three days later, depending on the level of exposure.

Symptoms can include eye and skin irritation, eye reddening, skin blistering, skin burns, sinus pain, coughing, fever, headache, sore throat, hoarse voice and nausea.

A MoD spokesman said: "We can confirm that two members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment appear to have been exposed to sulphur mustard while disabling a piece of British military ordnance from the inter-war years found by a member of the public at a beach in Whiteford Sands, Swansea.

"Neither of the individuals have been seriously harmed. Both have received treatment and are being monitored at their unit."

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