World War II First Aid Kit Causes California Hazmat Response

Online research and a call to city official starts Ventura County fire and EMS action


 
 

CINDY VON QUEDNOW, Ventura County Star | | Tuesday, October 15, 2013


A World War II-era first aid kit spotted at an estate sale prompted a huge hazardous material response in Camarillo Monday.

The box contained a small amount of an antiseptic that was frequently used during the war, but could be dangerous so many years later, officials said.

The Ventura County Fire Department responded to a home in the 100 block of Calle Vista about 10:38 a.m. An Oxnard Fire Department hazardous material team and the Ventura County Sheriff's bomb squad also assisted because there was potential for further exposure and explosion. Authorities eventually removed it from the house and disposed of it safely.

Jody Williams and her family purchased the Girl Scouts first aid kit at a multi-estate sale in Ojai Saturday for $5 and later put up on eBay.

Her husband spotted it first. They are self-proclaimed "treasure hunters" and enjoy looking for gems.

"I said, 'right on!' It was a great find," Williams, 49, said.

She was looking forward to researching where it came from and how it was used at the time.

It was one of the first times she decided to put an item for resale on eBay when she got a message from a couple in Denver saying it was illegal to ship it's contents. Williams took down the ad and started doing some research.

Additionally, the chemical, identified as medical grade picric acid, can crystallize over time and become dangerous.

On Sunday night, when she couldn't sleep, she found out the adverse effects. When crystallized it could spark and create an explosion. Williams likened it to Pop Rocks.

"I'm glad my husband and son were asleep when I found out, because they totally would have made fun of me."

She locked up the kit in a safe and the next morning started calling city officials for their advice. She didn't call 911 because she didn't think it was necessary an emergency.

"How dangerous is a 61-year-old first aid kit from the Girl Scouts?" Williams said.

After getting the run around and calling several agencies, she finally got the fire department to respond.

About 1:20 p.m. Detective Mike Rompal with the sheriff's bomb squad came out of the home with the box, after soaking the gauze in water. Soon Williams, her son and their dog were able to go back inside their home.

The box was taken to a materials disposal site that the sheriff's office uses, said Ventura County fire spokesman Bill Nash.

"They handled it so skillfully and tactfully," Williams said about the firefighters who responded to the incident.

No one exposed to the chemical had any reaction or was injured, Nash said

"The bandages are a small part of the first aid kit, but we are dealing with an abundance of caution right now," Nash said during the response.

"The small amount is not going to blow the roof off the house, but it could cause an injury."

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