World War I chemical weapons turned into N.Y. police

A collection of eight sealed glass ampules turned into an Albany, New York, police department may contain liquid phosgene, a World War I-era chemical weapon that was used to choke enemies or to booby trap safes.

The vials, containing a yellowish liquid, had been discovered in a broken safe in a condemned building in Troy, New York, approximately two years ago and were recently brought into the station upon suspicion of containing a dangerous material, the Times Union reports.

"I can pretty much tell you it's phosgene," Sheriff's Inspector John Curry, the retired head of the State Police Bomb Disposal Unit, said, according to the Times Union. "We've tested it in the past, and that particular color tends to be phosgene."

Exposure to phosgene can range from symptoms like vomiting and nausea to coughing up pink fluid - the sign of a pulmonary edema. The symptoms could take as long as 48 hours to develop after being exposed.

The ampules worked as a sort of security system in the early part of the last century, as they would emit gas if an intruder tried to break into a safe, the Times Union reports.

Locksmith Dave LaBarge told the Times Union that he believes the ampules are filled with an aged or contaminated tear gas like nitroglycerin that is not as harmful.

The matter will be settled by the Army's chemical warfare lab, where the samples will be headed shortly. The vials will then be sent to a destruction furnace to render them useless.