Habanero peppers blamed for scare at Jefferson County Open School

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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.



  • Fred Guadagnoli

    I do NOT believe this. How could 6 peppers cause this amout of problems in the building when they were outside. I think this an easy out for the people investigating the incident. If this is true then how come
    people are not effected at the super markets where there are hundreds of pepers in the confines of a building. Many children are with their parents in the supermarkets in the vicinity if the peppers and I have never heard of a problem. I would think that the Fox 31 investigating team would question this and ask for more proof.

  • Michele Cotter Burger

    When I heard it was habanero, my first thought was someone probably rubbed it on the playground equipment. If so, the peppers were likely discarded into the woodchips which are usually cushioning under playground equipment. It didn’t affect the kids until they were inside and began touching their faces. I think the initial broadcast said the biggest complaint was burning eyes. Just a thought.

  • jmajorfamily

    I also DO NOT believe that habanero peppers were the culprit! It may have been pesticides that were sprayed and the peppers are a cover up. This I heard from one of the kids attending the school and overheard staff. Please look into this! They cannot think we are that stupid!

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