While some speculations went so far as to suggest mustard gas, the yellow lumps proved completely harmless.
A sticky yellow mass with lumps the size of cornlets covering the beaches of western Sweden has left locals puzzled and the authorities scratching their heads for answers.
Since the beginning of January, reports of similar discoveries have been made on at least 25 beaches in the area between Grebbestad and the border with Norway outside Strömstad.
“I touched it. It’s a little messy, like wax maybe”, local man Nils-Erik Karlsson told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten.
Ultimately, the Coast Guard was alerted and visited the site to take samples. Even the local municipality took measures after alerts from worried citizens came pouring in.
Martin Larsvik of the the Sven Lovén Centre on Tjärnö first thought of paraffin after receiving a call from a local woman from Edsvik about the occurrence.
“She described it as ‘spongy’, and paraffin oil is not spongy. It is beige or yellow beige and forms uneven lumps, often quite large. These seem to be small and even”, he told the newspaper.
Tanum municipality even encouraged inhabitants to keep children and pets away from the mass until it is figured out and deemed safe.
“We ask people to use common sense, as always when it comes to unknown things. One should not just go away to touch it and squeeze it”, Ida Aronsson Hammar of the local council told Norwegian broadcater NRK.
“There are a lot of ships with these chemical weapons out there. Chemical weapons including mustard gas. Other remaining ammunition from the World War is also there, together with the ships themselves. Can imagine a bottom trawl that has run against a mega lump of mustard gas and hence made it so that there are small fairly even lumps”, a user suggested.
Others stood firm that it was paraffin.
“Probably some paraffin-like substance from tankers that are approved to wash tanks and then dump a certain amount. Which then solidifies and clumps at lower temperatures”, another one parried.
To everyone’s relief, a subsequent analysis identified the yellow clumps as a form of fat or wax that poses no environmental hazard. The clean-up has already started and is expected to take several weeks.
Tweet: “The yellow mass is not dangerous”.
In 2014, large, yellow lumps the size of coconuts were found in several places in Norway. An analysis from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) revealed traces of toluene, benzene and xylene, all of which are used in solvents and can be harmful to a person’s health. The lumps were subsequently sent to the Defence Research Institute (FFI), which concluded that the lumps consisted of almost pure vegetable oil and thus were harmless.