Dozens of Georgians exposed to toxic chemicals in home COVID-19 test kits – WSB-TV Channel 2

The COVID-19 test kit you might have at home probably contains a toxic chemical. The Georgia Poison Center told Channel 2 Action News over the past few months they had received dozens of calls from children and adults accidentally exposed to the substance.

The government has sent out hundreds of millions of free COVID test kits, which are also widely available in stores. This is a quick 15 minute nasal swab test to check if you have COVID.

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But in most tests, the active ingredient that helps determine the result is sodium azide, a toxic chemical.

Channel 2’s Tom Regan spoke to a mum who said she was careful about getting tested, especially with her children. “They know not to touch me when I take a COVID test. This is serious business,” said Erin Dawson, mother of two.

“This product can be dangerous. In some cases, if enough is ingested, it can cause your blood pressure to drop…The other thing we know sodium azide can irritate the gut, irritate the stomach,” said Dr. Gaylord Lopez , executive director of the Georgia Poison Center.

He said that in recent months they have handled dozens of accidental sodium azide ingestion calls.

In some cases, people confused the small dispenser containing the test chemical with eye drops. In some products, the packaging is very similar. “We had a dad give this to their kid thinking it was eye drops,” Lopez said.

Children have also consumed the chemical in their belief that it is a sweet little treat. Others have reported skin irritation.

There is also the case of the person who thought the little packet contained water flavoring drops. “They mistakenly took one of these packets and put it in a bottle of water and drank all of their water and only realized afterwards, ‘Where’s the solution for my COVID test? ‘” Lopez said.

Sodium azide is colorless, tasteless and odorless. It is also used as an explosive filler in automobile airbags and as a preservative in laboratories and hospitals.

Exposure to large amounts of chemicals can cause serious health problems, including respiratory failure resulting in death.

Fortunately, the amount used as a reagent in COVID testing is tiny, less than an ounce. That’s why the Georgia Poison Center hasn’t recorded any hospitalizations. “We were able to handle those cases at home and luckily we didn’t have any major issues,” Lopez said.

“I think that’s something parents should know,” Dawson said.

But most of the parents Regan spoke with were unaware that a toxic chemical is used in home COVID testing. “I mean, there should at least be a warning to parents that there is something unsafe,” said Carlan Howard, a mother.

Polly Waller is among the parents who told Regan they wouldn’t let children near a COVID test kit unless they were testing them. “The ones we got from the government, we put them in the medicine cabinet, so they couldn’t reach them,” Waller said.

“I’m very careful about missing things, especially COVID kits that are hard to come by,” Dawson said.

The Georgia Poison Center said it received a report of a dog breaking into the remains of a test kit. He didn’t get sick. The director said COVID test kit materials should be properly disposed of after use.


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Abbot Labs, the maker of Binax Now, sent this statement to Channel 2:

“Binax Now is safe to use and a powerful tool for detecting Covid-19 infections. It contains only a trace amount of sodium azide as a preservative. When used as directed, the solution of reagent does not come into contact with skin, eyes or mucous membranes.

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