The at-home rapid COVID-19 tests contained a toxic chemical that can be really harmful and even life-threatening when exposed to a large amount of the chemicals.
Ohio and Texas issued a warning after seeing an increase in reports related to sodium azide poisoning, a chemical found in test kits after Biden promised to give 500 million Covid test kits to Americans.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center released a statement regarding an “increase in accidental exposures to a substance in these kits.”
The substance is sodium azide, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Drug and Poison Information Center has seen a surge in calls about exposures to the chemical since more people started self-testing for COVID-19 at home.
“We started getting our first exposures to these test kits around early November,” said Sheila Goertemoeller, pharmacist and clinical toxicologist for the center. “It was, really, all ages.” The calls to the local center mirror what’s been happening nationally.
Sodium azide, often used as a preservative, is a liquid reagent in several of the COVID-19 test kits, she said. Ingesting it can cause low blood pressure, which can result in dizziness, headaches or palpitations. Exposure to it can also cause skin, eye or nostril irritation.
The Cincinnati Children’s based Drug and Poison Information Center has logged 38 cases of sodium azide exposure, with cases peaking in January. Adults exposed generally have experienced mild skin irritation, which can get worse if the area isn’t washed thoroughly, she said.
Nationwide Children’s Central Ohio Poison Center in Columbus also reported seeing an “uptick” in cases, as well, a spokeswoman said. The center did not immediately have a number of cases.
West Texas Poison Center also issued a warning last week and urged the locals to read the instructions before using any at-home COVID-19 testing kits.
Local 12 reported:
Sarah Watkins, medical director, for West Texas Region Poison Center, an Emergency Medicine Physician and medical toxicologist reported an increase of reports related to sodium azide poisoning.
“It has a chemical in it called sodium azide, which in large amounts can be really dangerous and even life-threatening,” Watkins said.
She said the majority of the calls made are from people who are not reading the instructions.
“We have gotten some calls here in the state of Texas about this,” Watkins said.
She said some people are putting the test swab in the solution and sticking it up their nose.
She said people are also confusing the substance for eyedrops.
“In-home covid tests, there is a dropper that comes in the test, and it looks a lot like eyedrops so it’s really easy to confuse with things that you’re supposed to put into your body,” Watkins said.
Watkins said sodium azide reacts on the body the same way cyanide does.