Tackling misinformation around testing

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care has responded to misinformation being shared relating to Lateral Flow Testing for children and young people.

The concerning posts that are circulating on social media are suggesting that chemicals used in Lateral Flow Tests have a high risk of causing cancer.

This is inaccurate and harmful misinformation.

Extremely small quantities of ethylene oxide are used in the swabs for Lateral Flow Tests, but this is well within national and international safety standards.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority, the UK’s regulator of medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion, took this fully into account when assessing safety for licensing for Lateral Flow Tests.

Dr Fu-Meng Khaw, Public Health England's COVID-19 Incident Director, said: “Parents, children and staff should feel reassured that lateral flow tests used in schools have been rigorously tested and are completely safe to use on a regular basis.

"Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate and harmful misinformation.”

These comments have been echoed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Lateral flow tests used in schools have been rigorously tested and are safe to use on a regular basis.

"Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate and harmful misinformation.

“We are working closely with social media platforms to help them identify and take action to remove incorrect claims about the virus, including false information that could endanger people's health.”

What is being done to tackle dis/misinformation

  • The Government has secured a commitment from Facebook, Twitter and Google not to profit from this kind of material and to respond faster to content it flags flag for removal.
  • The tech giants have also agreed to join new policy forums over the coming months to improve responses to dis/misinformation and to prepare for future threats.
  • Legislation is also being developed in the UK to protect people online and these will tackle dangerous dis/misinformation. This is expected to be ready this year.
  • The Government is also sponsoring content on social media channels and a range of news media outlets to provide information and advice to communities across the country.