AN accident and emergency department has reopened after closing its doors to patients to treat two recycling centre workers splashed with chemicals.

Bosses at Total Recycling Service, in Lingfield Way, Darlington, sent the men to the town's Memorial Hospital at about 11.30am this morning after the spillage.

They were not seriously injured.

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The hospital closed its casualty unit as a precaution while the men were checked over.

Alex Foreman, managing director of the waste transfer centre, said: "We have a zero tolerance attitude to these matters and the men were sent to hospital as a precaution.

"The spillage was very small - probably no more than a litre and we have two chemists on site who are now cleaning it up."

Darlington Police are investigating the incident. The fire service was also called although it is understood they are not treating the incident as serious.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: "A&E at Darlington Memorial Hospital has reopened, following a chemical incident.

"A&E was closed at around 10.45am this morning after two adults presented at the department who had been contaminated by an unknown chemical.

"The department was closed in order to limit risk of exposure to other patients and staff.

"The A&E department remained open for life threatening emergencies only.

"The chemical was identified as mercaptoethanol, which on contact causes irritation of the skin or eyes and can cause breathing difficulties or shortness of breath.  It is unlikely to cause long term health problems.

"Following decontamination of the individuals affected and ventilation of the department, A&E reopened at 12.45pm.

"Patients and staff in the department at the time have been advised to contact their GP if they experience symptoms."

The spillage was classed as a major incident by the hospital and the Health and Safety Executive is investigating.