EtBr safety procedures

Klaus.Matthaei at Klaus.Matthaei at
Mon Jun 14 23:28:08 EST 1993

>The discussion on the disposal of ethidium bromide echoed in my mind
>the other afternoon as I was cutting out of the building.  Walking
>down one hallway, I passed a room where the lights were turned off
>and where a graduate student was standing over a UV box, gowned,
>gloved and wearing protective eyegear while standing over her gel 
>on the UV box.  What gave me pause was that the UV light box was on
>a table right beside the door, where everybody walking past was 
>bound to peer in.  Granted, the passersby get a brief exposure to the
>UV, and the strength of the light attenuates quickly with distance,
>but I was curious to know what the rest of you think about this.
>How dangerous is it to have your light source briefly being exposed
>to the naked eyes of passersby?
>Mike Coady

There was a paper (in Nature I think) a long time ago on this and the
effect is supposed to be not permanent if the exposure is not too long.  I
found this out because many many moons ago in total ignorance of the
effects of UV on the eyes I cut out a band from an agarose gel without ANY
eyeprotection.  It probably took a few minutes (the DNA didn't clone well
either because I took so long and I also got a good case of sunburn).  The
only effect I had was that it felt that I had sand in my eyes for a few
days afterwards and then they returned to normal.  Now probably 12 years
later I am told I still have 20/20 vision without any detrimental effects. 
I don't recommend doing it of course but it may not be as dangerous as
sometimes thought and certainly not a fleeting glance from a hallway.

Cheers, Klaus
Klaus Matthaei
Gene Targeting
The John Curtin School of Medical Research
The Australian National University
E-mail: Klaus.Matthaei at

"If you don't do: you rust"

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