Eleven soldiers from Fort Bliss were hospitalized Thursday after consuming an “unknown substance” believed to have given them ethylene glycol poisoning, officials said Friday evening.
The eleven soldiers are believed to have ingested the substance in the final day of a 10-day field exercise at McGregor Range Complex at Fort Bliss, Texas. “Initial reports indicate soldiers consumed this substance thinking they were drinking an alcoholic beverage,” said Fort Bliss officials in a statement on Friday evening.
“Army and Fort Bliss regulations prohibit the consumption of alcohol in a field training environment. Initial toxicology results indicate the Soldiers are experiencing ethylene glycol poisoning,” said officials.
Two of the soldiers were admitted to intensive care units, and nine have been placed under observation at a non-critical care wing. In total, eight enlisted members, two non-commissioned officers, and one warrant officer were injured in the incident. Lt. Col. Allie Payne, a spokesperson for the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss, said the two admitted to ICUs had improved but were in serious condition, reports The New York Times.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ethylene glycol is a viscous chemical substance that can be found in some consumer products, such as antifreeze or hydraulic brake fluid. The substance is fatal when ingested in sufficient quantities.
From the CDC:
Ethylene glycol has a sweet taste and is often accidentally or intentionally ingested. Ethylene glycol is chemically broken down in the body into toxic compounds. It and its toxic byproducts first affect the central nervous system (CNS), then the heart, and finally the kidneys. Ingestion of sufficient amounts can be fatal. Ethylene glycol is odorless; odor does not provide any warning of inhalation exposure to hazardous concentrations.
It’s not clear how much of the substance each person consumed. Col. Shawna Scully, deputy commander of medical services at William Beaumont Army Medical Center said in a press conference that small amounts of ethylene glycol can cause agitation and confusion, while large amounts can cause organ failure, reports The New York Times.
Fort Bliss said in a statement: “Our primary concern remains the wellbeing of our Soldiers, our Families, and the unit. Our teammates are receiving the best medical resources available. Unit and installation chaplains are attending those in need.”
“The circumstances of how the Soldiers ingested the substance are under investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC). There is no reason to believe there is any threat to the greater Fort Bliss community,” officials said in a statement.
1AD and @FortBlissTexas provided second daily update to Jan. 28 incident. Quick response from @WBAMCArmyMed and our local medical community were instrumental in the first 24 hrs. What we know so far⬇️ pic.twitter.com/EsPsxtRPvM
— 1st Armored Division (@1stArmoredDiv) January 30, 2021
According to the Army website, there are about 17,000 soldiers in the First Armored Division at Fort Bliss. The First Armored Division is also known as “Old Ironsides.”
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