Cause for school contamination was peppers

JEFFERSON COUNTY - A mysterious substance officials described as a "toxic irritant" caused a school-wide evacuation and hospitalized a handful of students at Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, officials announced the mysterious substance was six habanero peppers scattered in the wood chips in the playground area.

District teams are in the process of washing the playground equipment and wiping down surfaces inside to ensure that the school is free of any residual pepper oil. The wood chips in the area where the peppers were found are being replaced.

"Coming in contact with the pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced. It isn't known at this time how or when the peppers got on the playground," the release read.

Police, firefighters and Hazmat crews surrounded the school around lunchtime on Monday. The pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school is located at West 10th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood.

"I just saw some guy being carried out on a stretcher," eighth grader Ciera Spaulding said.

West Metro Fire says 30 students and a teacher's aide were treated for symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Hazmat crews decontaminated students outside the school. The rest of the students and staff were evacuated to a church down the street.

First responders don't expect any long-term or lingering effects.

Classes were canceled Tuesday. The school will be open on Wednesday.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)


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