Habanero peppers blamed for scare at Jefferson County Open School

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Shreds of six habanero peppers scattered in wood chips caused Monday’s hazmat scare at Jefferson County Open School, district officials said Tuesday.

Thirty children, including seven taken to the hospital, and one aide were treated because of the irritant. Firefighters set up a tent and rinsed and then showered the children.

The Jefferson County Public Schools environmental services team said it found pieces of about six habanero peppers scattered in the wood chips. The pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced Monday, the district said.

Officials do not know how or when the peppers got on the playground.

The school was closed Tuesday as district officials looked for a cause to Monday’s incident. Playground equipment and inside surfaces are being washed down, and the wood chips in the area of where the peppers were found will be replaced.

The school will reopen Wednesday.

Habanero peppers rate 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville heat scale.