The Baltic and North Sea are contaminated with hundreds of thousands of tons of munitions that originated from coastal bombing raids or naval battles or had been dumped in the water by the Allies and the Germans after the war.
The phosphorus that was washed ashore on the beach at Usedom may have come from incendiary bombs the Allies dropped on the nearby rocket research plant on the island at Peenemünde, where Nazi Germany developed the feared V2 rocket.
The clinic in the town of Wolgast, where the women were initially brought before being moved to Greifswald, said it treats two to three people per year for phosphorus burns.
Experts say bombs, poisonous chemicals and sudden explosions of rusting ordnance pose a major threat to the Baltic Sea. Figures for the number of victims from World War II munitions in the sea for the whole of Germany's coastline aren't available. In neighboring Denmark, which keeps records, some 20 people, most of them fishermen, are reportedly injured each year in explosions or through contact with chemicals.
Warning signs along beaches on Usedom alert people to the danger. Environmental groups and scientists have been warning that the bombs are gradually rusting away and releasing their chemicals into the water.
Intellpuke: This article is a compilation of reporting by Spiegel journalists and various news agencies; you can read it in context here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,829516,00.html