Tests conducted in New Zealand have revealed 'heavy metal' chromium to be the likely cause of a health scare in the Cook islands.
Samples from the local playing field in Titikaveka show a high presence of chromium in the soil, which could account for reports of eye, nose, throat and skin irritations.
The Cook Islands News reports Government agencies are looking at ways to remove the chemical from the area.
High levels of chromium were discovered all around the site, but in particular near classrooms at Titikaveka College, where readings were almost five times above acceptable limits.
Calcium and sulphate levels were also high, and there was found to be a high level of phosphate retention in the soil, which was strongly alkaline.
The Environment ministry says that chromium was used to treat timber and could enter the soil that way; it can also rise to high levels when earth is exposed to untreated waste, like that from a septic tank.