EMERGENCY teams including Selkirk’s fire crew were alerted to a chemical scare on Wednesday when a canister was discovered by the side of the A7 near Ashkirk.
The canister was found to contain dangerous nitrous oxide - better known as laughing gas – and was spotted almost two weeks after thieves targeted two hospitals in bids to snatch the anaesthetic.
The two-foot-high blue cylinder was marked with the words Hawick Community Hospital, whose dental department was targeted by thieves in the early hours of October 13.
On the same day, a number of canisters from Borders General Hospital’s pharmacy department were taken.
A police spokesman said: “We will be making further inquiries to establish if this canister is one of those stolen.”
Laughing gas thefts have increased across Scotland in recent weeks, with fears that it is being used to power boy racers’ cars or as a recreational drug with the canisters sold as scrap metal.
NHS Borders’ chief executive Calum Campbell has warned that anyone taking the stolen gas could cause serious damage to their health. He has promised improved security including the possibility of cameras.