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23. Gruinard Island, Wester Ross. (NG 943 940)

In 1941, the 520-acre Gruinard Island in Wester Ross was poisoned with anthrax as a testing ground for chemical and biological warfare. The anthrax released by the explosions on the island was tested on a flock of sheep to test the possibility of using, as a last resort, chemical warfare on German cities. The sheep began to die three days after being subjected to the poison and although the government believed the tests to be successful, anthrax was never used against German cities in the Second World War.

In 1986 the government made the decision to clean up the island and after prolonged treatment it was declared safe in 1990.

Amongst the scientists who took part in the de-contamination of the island was Dr. David Kelly, whose suicide in July 2003 forced an inquiry into allegations that the government altered an intelligence report to advance the case for war in Iraq. In 1986, Dr. Kelly was the head of microbiology at the Chemical Defence Establishment, Porton Down, and was heavily involved in the clean up of Gruinard Island. The de-contamination process involved removing a large quantity of topsoil of the island which was then incinerated. This attempt to make the island safe was followed by 280 tons of formaldehyde and seawater solution disinfectant being poured on the island. A flock of sheep were put on the island and monitored for any possible sign of anthrax poisoning.

Despite no further cases of contamination occurring, the island is still potentially dangerous, as any remaining trace of anthrax spores could make it hazardous for generations.

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