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COVID test kit liquid could be harmful, doctor warns

Before you open the COVID-19 at-home test kit box, poison control centers are cautioning people about a potentially toxic liquid in some kits.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Nearly 200 million at-home COVID-19 tests were recently mailed in the U.S.

But a component inside some of those kits is raising concerns.

"Some of the kits actually have sodium azide in them. Sodium azide is a chemical that can be potentially poisonous," said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, National Capital Poison Center.

Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor is a Medical Toxicologist at the National Capital Poison Center in Washington D.C.

She says accidental exposure or ingestion of this fluid is happening in both children and adults.

"People might mistake them for eye drops. Children might drop it onto their skin. Adults will sometimes mistakenly put them into their eyes," said Dr. Johnson-Arbor.

A dozen accidental reports of exposure have been made in the Keystone State since kits became available outside of medical offices and pharmacies.

Adults make up most of the reports. About a third of those people had kits with this specific liquid.

None of the instances were deadly.

Rashes and other medical problems were reported as well.

"You don't want to leave it on the skin because it could potentially cause an allergic reaction or a skin rash. If someone drinks the solution, it's really important to contact poison control right away. The solutions have different ingredients. Some have non-toxic ingredients and others have more dangerous ingredients," said Johnson-Arbor.

Dr. Jeffrey Jahre with St. Luke's University Health Network says there's no reason to panic or throw away the kits, but rather read the instructions.

"Use them properly, dispose of them properly and it won't cause an issue," said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke's University Health Network.

Poison control lists these four COVID-19 at-home testing kits as those with that potentially harmful liquid.  

Again, no need to throw out these kits, health experts just say be mindful when using them.

Watch more stories about the coronavirus pandemic on WNEP’s YouTube page. 

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