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Habanero Peppers Blamed for School Evacuation

A public school in Colorado was evacuated and several students were hospitalized Monday after habanero peppers in the playground area sparked symptoms consistent with allergic reactions.

Seven students at Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood were sent to the hospital complaining of skin and eye irritation, and two dozen students and a teachers' aide had to be decontaminated Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Image: Four students were taken to the hospital and 24 were treated on the scene after they had reactions on the school playground on Monday afternoon at Jefferson County Open School
Four students were taken to the hospital and 24 were treated on the scene after they had reactions on the school playground on Monday afternoon at Jefferson County Open School. KUSA

Jefferson County schools said in a news release Tuesday that employees found about six habanero peppers scattered in wood chips.

"Coming in contact with the pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced," the release said.

It was not immediately known how or when the peppers got on the playground of the school, which has roughly 500 students in grades K-12, according to the release.

The school was closed Tuesday so district teams could wash playground equipment and wipe down surfaces to make sure the school was free of any residual pepper oil, the release said. The school will reopen Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.