Hampshire police have warned thieves who tried to rob an Eastleigh decontamination caravan that they may have inhaled asbestos fibres.
Officers said the burglars who prised open the caravan's locked doors and broke into sealed bags should get urgent medical assistance. The sacks contained garments contaminated with white, brown and blue asbestos.
The clothing had been worn by workers engaged in demolishing a former Pirelli tyre plant in the Hampshire town.
The break-in, which happened on the night of Tuesday 16 April and caused some £5,000 damage, was described by police as "costly and pointless".
Urging individuals to stay clear of the site, PC Ella Knight said her colleagues' "prime concern" was for the burglars' safety and that of their families.
"If you entered this unit, you are likely to have been contaminated by asbestos and should seek medical attention if you touched or stole any items within this unit," PC Knight said.
Removal and disposal of asbestos, which is related to the aggressive cancer mesothelioma and is banned in over 50 countries, is a highly-specialised task. Of its 6 types, the blue and brown asbestos variants are regarded the most hazardous.