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Bomb Squad Called In To Remove Potentially Explosive Girl Scout Memorabilia

FIRESTONE, Colo. (CBS4) - Girl Scouts typically come to the rescue of those in trouble but on Tuesday, the bomb squad was called to investigate a potentially explosive collector's item used by the troops.

The Weld County Bomb Squad exercised extreme care for a package the size of a credit card: picric acid gauze pads found in a 1930s Girl Scout first aid kit.

The homeowner in Firestone said his wife picked up a 1939 vintage Girl Scout first aid kit from a garage sale. They did not realize that when old and dry, the picric acid antiseptic becomes volatile and explosive.

Online videos show the explosive potential of the acid. After sitting for decades, the acid on the bandages crystallizes and they can detonate with the slightest bump.

girl scout picric acid bomb squad
(credit: CBS)

Four years ago, it was startling news for a Denver couple, who had plenty of the antiquated first aid kits in their collection.

The basement of Ernie and Carol Altvater houses one of the largest collections of Girl Scout memorabilia in the world, and they never expected to find explosives amid their collection.

"In many ways crystalized picric acid is like nitroglycerin. It can easily explode and it explodes significantly," said Altvater.

Denver's bomb squad took their picric acid kits and destroyed them.

"We had probably a half dozen. But the bomb squad said that was enough to take out our house, and maybe some of the neighbors," Altvater said.

Since then, the Altvaters have become online watchdogs, warning memorabilia sellers that shipping the kits could be disastrous.

"A lot of times they go, 'I never knew that I was offering an explosive for sale,'" Altvater said.

Those warning calls usually result in a seller calling the fire department.

Millions of the kits were produced in the 1920s and '30s. Altvater says anyone owning one of the vintage kits should check, but with caution.

"Some of those are in the trash right now, but a lot of them are still floating around," Altvater said.

Anyone who finds expired picric acid in their home is advised not to just throw it away, but instead to call 911 so professionals can handle it.

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