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Tourists hunting "false amber" suffer phosphorus burns

Jul 04, 2006
By TBT staff

RIGA - German tourists were rushed to hospital suffering burns after handling pieces of "false amber" 's the highly flammable chemical phosphorus that is known to spontaneously combust.
The tourists found the phosphorus washed on a beach near Bernati in the southern county of Liepaja on June 29. They thought the substance was amber, but it quickly burst into flames as they handled it.
A Liepaja central hospital spokeswoman told the Baltic News Service that one man suffered burns to his fingers, while a woman was burnt on her thigh.
The medics provided the necessary assistance, but the tourists did not have to stay in the hospital.
The tourists possibly had not been informed about the "false amber" as the warning signs are displayed only in the city, not at the beach.
There are several cases of phosphorus burns each year, but this was the first recorded incident for 2006.
Last year a Belgian citizen sustained burns on 12 percent of his body from phosphorus, and a boy suffered burns to his hand in 2004.
Such pieces of fake amber are washed ashore on the beach in Liepaja from time to time after storms of strong wind gusts. At times the pieces of phosphorus, warmed up by the sun, flare up while lying in the sand on the beach.
Medics ask people to be very careful as burns from phosphorus usually are serious and heavy. White phosphorus catches fire easily when warmed up or rubbed.
It is believed the phosphorus pieces are the result of an explosion during Soviet times.
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