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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ten students at a San Francisco middle school were taken by ambulance to area hospitals on Tuesday for treatment of exposure to an unknown substance, possibly an illicit drug, that some appeared to have ingested, emergency and school officials said.

Details of the incident at James Lick Middle School in the city's Noe Valley neighbourhood remained sketchy, but fire department spokesman Lieutenant Jonathan Baxter said none of the students' illnesses were life-threatening.

Baxter said in an email message to Reuters that 10 students were treated on the scene by emergency personnel and "put onto ambulances and taken to area hospitals." He offered no further details, referring queries to school officials.

Ethan Baker, a representative for the city Emergency Management Department, said the substance in question was possibly an illicit drug.

"At this time it appears as though some students have ingested a substance that is causing adverse reactions," the San Francisco Unified School District said in a separate statement. It said the families of the affected students were being contacted.

A spokeswoman for the school district, Jessica Wan, said she had no further information to provide.

According to the school's website, the school serves about 650 students in grades six through eight.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville and Jim Christie in San Francisco; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool and Leslie Adler)

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Reuters