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Amazon workers treated after bear repellant releases fumes

FILE - In this July 27, 2018 file photo, the logo for Amazon is displayed on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York. Amazon, facing a backlash from longtime warehouse workers who say its $15 hourly minimum wage wouldn’t benefit them, will now get a bigger raise. The company says adjustments are being made this Oct. 2018, and workers who already made $15 an hour will get more than the $1 extra an hour promised last week. Amazon says the raise will differ by warehouse.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. (AP) — An automated machine punctured a can of bear repellent at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey on Wednesday, releasing fumes that sickened workers and sent two dozen to hospitals, officials said.

At least one of the workers was in critical condition. The injured workers were taken to five hospitals, officials said. It was not clear if any were released.

About 30 other workers were treated at the warehouse in Robbinsville, authorities said. Most people were reporting difficulty breathing or burning in their throats or eyes.

Robbinsville spokesman John Nalbone told NJ.com that an automated machine damaged a 9-ounce (255-gram) can of bear repellent containing a concentrated amount of capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers. He said the fumes were contained in one part of the building's third floor, which was cleared for a few hours, though the warehouse as a whole was not evacuated.

Hundreds of workers are normally inside the building during work days.

Amazon confirmed that the accident dispersed strong fumes in the area of the facility. The incident is under investigation.

"The safety of our employees is our top priority, and as such, all employees in that area have been relocated to a safe place and employees experiencing symptoms are being treated on-site," the company said in a statement issued shortly after the accident. "As a precaution, some employees have been transported to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment. We appreciate the swift response of our local responders."

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