Safety precautions

Tue Feb 23 01:55:14 EST 1993

Seumas Walker at ZOOL153 at asks for handling precautions
for formamide and formaldehyde.

Dear Seumas, The Merck Index gives you an excellent description of general
properties of hundreds of reagents. Sometimes, toxicity with animals are
mentioned along with cautionary notes. At certain times, reactivity
characteristics are described and from these you may also get an idea how
you should handle certain reagents without subjecting yourself to any
possible danger. Most high-grade reagents also post handling and safety
marks on the shipping labels. There are however certain color codes
in these markings which may not be understood clearly by purchasers and
it is best to consult the manufacturer's about their safety coding system.
Yes, the suppliers are likewise good source of information about reagent

As for formamide and formaldehyde, my suggestion is be very careful with
them. Both formamide and formaldehyde can be easily absorbed thru the
skin. Mind you, these chemicals are unquestionably poisonous and irritating.
Formamide is suspected teratogen. Formaldehyde which is common as a dilute
solution (formalin) is used for preserving cadavers and tissues. 

But in a molecular biology lab one should always be conscientous about
going about one's work without at least having gloves on. It's both an
assurance for the investigator's personal safety and the exclusion of
contaminants coming from the skin (e.g. nasty dermal nucleases).

Scott :-)

Genetics Laboratory
Plant Pathology Division
Intl Rice Research Institute
e-mail:  rscott at

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