After more than 30 people complained of eye injuries, skin irritation and pain at Jeffco Open School, the Jefferson County institution was evacuated.
Following an investigation, authorities now believe they know what caused the allergic-like symptoms.
“In searching the playground area, employees found pieces of approximately six habanero peppers scattered in the wood chips,” Melissa Reeves of Jefferson County Public Schools said in a statement. “Coming in contact with the pepper oil would cause many of the symptoms that students experienced.”
Habaneros generally measure between 100,000 and 350,000 units on the Scoville scale of pepper heat; jalepeno peppers usually score about 2,500 to 5,000 units.
“District teams are in the process of washing the playground equipment and wiping down surfaces inside to ensure that the school is free of any residual pepper oil,” Reeves said. “The wood chips in the area where the peppers were found are being replaced.”
Hazmat crews decontaminated dozens of children as a precaution after the incident.
“I think it’s hard to speculate where they came from and who might have done that,” school Principal Scott Bain told CBS Denver.