Should you throw your used COVID-19 rapid test in the trash?

January 19, 2022 by Jennifer Ferreira

Canadians are seeing an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases logged across the country. Along with it has come a sharp increase in demand for rapid antigen tests (RATs), devices that offer on-the-spot results letting users know whether they have COVID-19 in 20 minutes or less.

Aside from questions about where to access these tests and how to use them, it’s also important to consider how to dispose of rapid test kits after they’ve been used.

Under the best circumstances, used tests would be disposed of as biohazardous waste at an authorized disposal site, said Miriam Diamond, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Toronto. This is because they contain biological material collected from the nose.

But the reality is that most people will likely just toss them in their household garbage, she said.

“They will de facto be going into the garbage because it's highly unlikely that people will have segregated garbage [for biohazardous waste],” Diamond told on Wednesday in a phone interview.

She also pointed out the possibility that certain chemicals included in these tests could be hazardous. The Abbott Laboratories Panbio COVID-19 rapid test is one of several testing devices authorized by Health Canada. One of the active ingredients in the buffer solution is sodium azide, which is especially hazardous if disposed down the sink, Diamond said. Despite this, it’s likely that only a small amount would be used and that any risk associated with using the test would be minimal.

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