Habanero peppers suspected in hospitalization of students

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Jeffco Open School to reopen Wednesday

By Ramsey Scott

Habanero peppers have been identified as the irritant that sent seven students from the Jeffco Open School in Lakewood to the hospital on Monday.

West Metro Fire Rescue evacuated the campus Monday afternoon after 30 students and one teacher's aide were affected by the then-unknown substance. All of those affected were decontaminated at the school by West Metro.

The Jeffco School District said about six habanero peppers in pieces were found in wood chips on the school’s playground by its environmental service team. The district said the symptoms exhibited by the students and teacher’s aide were similar to those caused by exposure to the pepper’s oils.

West Metro had been unable to determine what caused the reactions or the source of the irritant at the time.

The Jeffco Open School was closed Tuesday as workers from the school district cleaned up any possible remnants of the peppers' oils on the playground or in the school. The district planned to reopen the school Wednesday.

There was no indication of how or why the peppers were at the school. According to West Metro, the Lakewood Police Department determined there was no criminal intent involved in the incident.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Check www.columbinecourier.comfor updates.