Crews in hazmat suits are seen outside the New Balance factory in Skowhegan. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

A cleaning product is to blame for a chemical exposure that forced New Balance to evacuate its Skowhegan factory and shut the plant down for nearly a week, the shoe manufacturer said Thursday.

The manufacturing facility reopened Thursday morning, nearly a week after a chemical exposure that caused symptoms including difficulty breathing, eye irritation, burning and tingling in about 30 employees.

The exposure happened after a COVID-19 cleaning product caused a harmful reaction when it came into contact with certain equipment in the factory, the company said.

New Balance, which also runs Maine factories in Norridgewock and Norway, has removed that product from its factories, the company said.

New Balance evacuated the factory after employees started reporting those symptoms last Thursday afternoon, and five employees were hospitalized.

About 70 employees used a tent set up for decontamination outside the factory, where they showered, changed clothes and stayed in school buses as hazmat teams investigated.

The five people who were taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan were released later in the day.