A few soldiers were poking around in the dump at their base and found a can full of a white powdery substance. At least 25 servicemen began using the handy substance, adding it to their tobacco when they rolled cigarettes, dusting it on their sweaty feet, and even snorting it. Within a short time, many of them became mysteriously ill and their hair began falling out.
Tests showed that the alluring white powder was thallium, an element once used as rat poison, but found to be so toxic that it is banned in the United States and several other countries. Extensive thallium exposure can cause liver and kidney damage, and organ failure.
Several soldiers were airlifted in serious condition to the St. Petersburg Academy of Military Medicine. They may not have earned a medal for their creative recycling efforts, but they did earn an At-Risk Survivor from the Darwin Awards.
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