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Mystery powder sends 10 cell phone employees to hospital

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Ten employees of a cellular phone company in suburban Atlanta were hospitalized on Friday after a powdery substance was released from a package containing two phone batteries.

Written on one of the two batteries was a message: "You just got punked," police said.

A powder and gas were released after an employee at Pure TalkUSA separated two fused cell batteries in a package delivered to the company, said Capt. Ken Malcolm of the Covington Police Department.

Ten employees then began complaining of burning eyes and skin and drove to a local emergency room for treatment, said Malcolm.

The employees were treated and released but other patients had to be rerouted in the meantime to other hospitals in the area because authorities did not immediately know the nature of the powdery substance, said Malcolm.

"We believe it was part of the battery itself," he said. "Whatever it was, it sent 10 people to the hospital."

Authorities will continue to investigate the incident to determine if the package was intended to harm the employees, said Malcolm.