50 calls made to poison control centres over exposure to COVID-19 rapid test kit ingredients

At least 50 calls have been made to poison control centres in Canada over accidental exposure to certain ingredients in COVID-19 rapid test kits, which can be poisonous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin, warns Health Canada.

In an advisory released on Thursday, the federal department stressed the kits are safe and effective when used as intended. However, many test kits include liquid solutions with chemical preservatives, such as sodium azide and ProClin preservatives that can pose a danger if ingested — particularly for children and pets.

“Small doses of sodium azide can lower blood pressure, and larger doses may cause more serious health effects. ProClin is also found in many kits. It contains chemicals that can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as allergic reactions,” the advisory continues.

It also notes that the various rapid test kits made available for people to use from local health units, schools, workplaces or other avenues might not have labelling or instructions that disclose the risks associated with “misuse or accidental ingestion.”

Health Canada recommends to:

  • Keep rapid antigen test kits and solutions out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Do not swallow the solutions, and avoid eye and skin contact.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after use. If spillage occurs, rinse well with water.
  • Follow all instructions for proper disposal.
  • Report any health product-related side effects or complaints to Health Canada.
  • Contact your local poison information and control centre in cases of accidental ingestion of chemicals or direct skin exposure.

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