Calls to poison control increase with availability of COVID-19 test kits

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Across the country, poison control centers have seen a 20% increase in calls about household cleaners and hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic. More recently, as more at-home COVID-19 tests have become available, there has been an increase in calls to the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia relating to the chemicals in those kits.

CHOP's Dr. Anthony Jaworski says some kids have ingested the liquid, which usually contains sodium azide, a potentially poisonous chemical that's used as a preservative.

“There are these liquid vials in each of the test kits. The ingredients vary from product to product,” Jaworski said.

“The downside to some of these tests is, while you’re waiting those 15 minutes for the results to come back, you might turn your back, and that’s the opportunity for a child to come in and grab it.”

However, most of the emergency calls, he says, are for adults, mistaking the same vials for eye drops.

He says the amount of sodium azide inside the test kits is too low to cause problems, but he wants families to be aware there are potentially hazardous chemicals in the kits.

“Luckily these vials are just small enough to where we’re not expecting any significant problems to arise.”

His recommendation is to leave the testing kits unopened until they are needed, and to throw them away as soon as they are used.

The 24/7 emergency hotline at CHOP’s Poison Control Center is 1-800-222-1222.

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