Old Mining Medical Kits Cause A Scare In Hazleton

December 3, 2018

HAZLETON — Firefighters and police responded to two homes where owners discovered picric acid in old mining medical kits Friday morning. Picric acid bandages, which were used to treat burns, become dangerous when crystallized. Opening the container could be enough to set it off, as it’s shock-sensitive. Officials contacted state police bomb squad units from Hershey about a kit Thomas Shemansky had in his 448 Thirlwell Ave. home for the past 20 or 30 years. Shemansky read about the discovery of the picric acid gauze in old medical kits in two other homes in a story in the Standard-Speaker, a Times-Shamrock newspaper, retrieved his kit and took it outside into the backyard before calling officials. “I had it for years,” he said. “I played with it.” He didn’t expect the emergency response that showed up at his home, he said. “I figured they’d take it and go,” Shemansky said. Firefighters did not examine or handle the kit with the picric acid, because handling the vials in the kit could cause enough friction to set off the acid, if crystallized. A bucket covered the kit in the backyard until the bomb squad arrived to dispose of it. An hour later, at 11:16 a.m., firefighters were summoned to 672 Grant St., where homeowner Jerry Diehl also read about the discovery in other homes, and said to his wife, “I think we have one in the basement.” The couple went downstairs, opened the small metal kit and found that it did have picric acid inside, he said. “We opened it,” Diehl said. “We probably shouldn’t have.” They called 911, and police and fire personnel showed up before they could leave the home, he said. Diehl, a retired city police officer, believes they found it while cleaning out a deceased uncle’s home. “We figured it was an antique,” he said. “I forgot all about it until I read the paper.” Deputy Chief Brian Mandak explained “Will it level the block? No,” he said. “Will it kill you? Yes. Will it maim you? Yes.”  

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