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Officials Test Clinics' Suspicious Packages

The local reports come in the wake of a nationwide scare for Planned Parenthood offices and independent abortion clinics. About 110 of these groups received suspicious envelopes or packages last Monday with white powder in them, The Associated Press reported Oct. 15. None of the suspicious packages tested positive for anthrax.

Also Oct. 15, 15 abortion clinics across the state reported receiving a suspicious package.

Lou Turner, director of the N.C. State Laboratory of Public Health, said the agency has processed 76 of the 98 samples obtained from the abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood offices, including three centers in Chapel Hill. "What we are trying to do is find out the results to give to the (FBI) and local health departments and let them release that information," she said. She also said the FBI is involved in investigating the packages.

FBI officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Turner said the testing process usually takes 48 to 72 hours to complete, and she could not comment on any of the results.

The Triangle Women's Health Center and the Eastowne Obstetrics-Gynecology and Infertility, both located in Chapel Hill, and Planned Parenthood centers in Durham and Chapel Hill received packages last Monday that were eventually sent to the state laboratory.

Local officials treated the packages as biohazard materials before sending them to the laboratory.

Neither Planned Parenthood offices opened the envelopes they received.

An FBI spokesman in North Carolina told The Durham Herald-Sun last week that the senders of these packages could be violating two federal laws, even if the incident turns out to be a hoax. The two possible violations are using weapons of mass destruction, which includes a toxin or biological substitute, and threatening interstate commerce.

These violations can carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if the substance tests positive as a biological toxin.

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