EtBr safety procedures

Michael Holloway mhollowa at ic.sunysb.edu
Tue Jun 15 17:42:39 EST 1993


In article <1993Jun11.192918.5794 at alw.nih.gov> jow at helix.nih.gov (Jim Owens) writes:

>A year or so ago we decommissioned a lab for isotope use so the people in
>it could eat lunch at their desks.  

At the risk of being accused of encouraging negligent use of radioactive
material, I would like to suggest the possibility that the reason that all
safety precautions are not universally respected is that some of them do 
not make any sense.  This could also explain why regulations are so variable.
People in different localities just can't come up with the same arbitrary 
regulations every time.  For instance: just what is the rational for not 
allowing someone to eat or store their lunch in the same room with radio-
active material but removed from the actual radioactive work or storage 
area?  Is someone actually concerned that a speck of 32P dATP might fly
across the room and end up in someone's tuna fish?  What would happen if it
did?  Remember, we are talking about very low level radioactivity here.  

Contempt for regulations is bred not just by bad enforcement but also by 
bad regulations.  If some system of reality checks could be established 
perhaps there would be a more universal acceptance of basic safety
precautions.  Containment and safe disposal should be something that 
everyone can agree on of their own free will and should be enforced without 
sympathy.  If someone can't clean up after themselves in the lab they have
no business working in the lab.  Period.  However, layering on to this 
nonsense like the "necessity" of wearing eyeglasses when working with low-
level radioactivity, when the stuff is already kept behind a plexiglass 
shield, is just begging people to stop taking you seriously.  Erroring on 
the side of safety may be all well and good but there does come a point
at which it is counter-productive.

Mike



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