Nearly two dozen adults and children were taken to Salt Lake-area hospitals Thursday morning following a chlorine leak at the James L. White Jewish Community Center preschool.

The leak occurred in a cylinder containing about 150 pounds of solid chlorine used in the pool at the preschool, at 2416 E. 17th South, said Salt Lake City Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Maxfield.Bernie Solomon, executive director of the preschool, "found the valves to a chlorine cylinder had been cracked open about half a turn," Maxfield said.

The 150 children and 20 adults were evacuated after the leak was discovered, about 10:45 a.m., Maxfield said.

Five adults and 18 children were taken to LDS, Holy Cross and University hospitals and Primary Children's Medical Center as a precautionary measure, he said.

"It is perceived to be of a minor nature - it's just a precautionary thing, "said Maxfield. "Chlorine does have a delayed action. It does affect the upper and lower respiratory" areas.

The most common effect of chlorine exposure is irritation in the throat. Maxfield said some of the children who were exposed and reported irritations were taken to Primary Children's Medical Center and Holy Cross Hospital.

"There are a couple of the women being treated for respiratory distress," said LDS Hospital spokesman Tim Madden. "They told me the kids are fine and they will be released as soon as their parents get here."

Another woman employee was being treated at University Hospital, a nursing supervisor said.

"They apparently didn't get much exposure," said Sandra Wilkins, Primary Children's spokeswoman.

"There are 12 kids that were brought here and they seem to be in good condition. At this point none of them had to go on oxygen," Wilkins said, adding the children would stay at the hospital for evaluation in the emergency room.

"I think a valve was either open or partially open," said Solomon. "The (outdoor) pool has been closed since Labor Day."

The cylinder containing chlorine, which is used to purify water in pools, was in the basement of the building.

"I went down there and opened the door, and I've been exposed to chlorine enough before to know" a leak, Solomon said, as he pulled off his oxygen mask.

Children waited on a lawn across from the preschool on 17th South to take turns breathing in oxygen masks.

About 20 children outside the building were affected by the leak.

The building was evacuated and cleared, Maxfield said, and children were able to return to classes by noon.

The leak was limited to the school building.