ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. >> An automated machine punctured a can of bear repellent at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey today, releasing fumes that sickened workers and sent two dozen to hospitals, officials said.
An Amazon representative said that as of 8 p.m., all of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from the hospital within the next 24 hours.
At least one of the workers was said to have been in critical condition this afternoon, but communications representative Rachel Lightly said that worker is among those expected to be released.
She said no packages were impacted by the incident.
“The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway,” Lightly said in a statement.
The injured workers were taken to five hospitals, officials said.
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. Amazon confirmed that the accident dispersed strong fumes in the area of the facility.
Hundreds of workers are normally inside the building during work days.