Habanero pepper shreds found after playground hazmat situation in Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, Colo. - Habanero pepper shreds were found strewn across a school playground after several children reported coughing and itchy eyes, the school district says.

Jefferson County Open School was evacuated just before 1 p.m. Monday when children on the playground started reporting the symptoms, according to district spokeswoman Melissa Reeves.

Thirty students and one teacher aid were decontaminated. Seven students were taken to St. Anthony's Hospital and to Exempla Lutheran Medical Center for treatment.

Initially, officials suspected that fertilizer applied to a soccer field at the school might have been the source of the irritation, but fire officials ruled that out.

Now, the district confirms to 7NEWS that shreds of "approximately six" habanero peppers were found on the playground in the wood chips. Reporter Lindsey Sablan asked if the peppers were put there intentionally, but the district could not answer the question at this time.

"Coming in contact with the pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced," the district wrote in an email.

The school was closed Tuesday while the playground and building were cleaned. Additionally, the wood chips where the peppers were found are being replaced.

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