Bizarre cause of mass illness that struck down schoolkids

The likely cause of a mass illness that struck down over 50 children at a New Zealand school has been identified.

Ten pupils from South End School in Carterton, 80km northeast of Wellington, needed hospital treatment on Friday after a mystery sulphur-like smell descended on the playground shortly after 1pm, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The affected students suffered from dizziness, vomiting and irritation to the skin, prompting emergency services to be called to the school.

Police now believe the smell came from a nearby property, where a mushroom compost was being put on a vege garden.

Over 50 pupils at the New Zealand school complained of dizziness, vomiting and irritated skin. Source: Google Maps

“We have identified that most of the children that fell ill were from the rear of the school near the compost,” Wairarapa area commander Scott Miller revealed.

Police had initially wanted to track down a small plane which passed over the area, with detectives believing something may have been dropped from above.

The 10 children admitted to hospital were later released on Friday evening, with Mr Miller confirming there will be no long-term effects following the inhalation of the compost’s fumes.

Police believe the pupil’s symptoms were caused by compost at a nearby property. Source: Getty, file.

The manufacturer of the compost, Clive Thompson, suggested the incident had been blown out of proportion and that he hadn’t had any issues producing compost over the last 52 years.

“In retrospect it was a bit over the top, really, for a little smell,” he said.

Mr Miller said following advice from Mr Thompson, the compost was dispersed across the property to a thin level and is now deemed safe.

Mr Thompson revealed the compost is heated to 80C, which creates a sulphur smell, which police believes triggered the pupils’ response.