EtBr carcinogenicity

Maxine Lintern m.c.lintern at
Thu Apr 13 07:35:44 EST 1995

In article <01HPA85Z05KY000T33 at UNCVX1.OIT.UNC.EDU>,

> Andrey Shaw says he doesn't wear gloves any more because molecular biologists
> dont all have tumors on their hands.  Given the complexities of tumorigenesis,
> this is a crude functional assay to say the least.  Until I read his message,
> I was hesitant to add my anecdotal evidence to the debate.  As an
> I used to carry EtBr containing gels with bare hands, not because I was naive,
> but rather careless. In grad school a few years later, I had to argue with two
> doctors to do a biopsy on a "wart" on the side of my index finger
exactly where
> I used to balance the gels.  The test was negative, and hopefully that was the
> end of it.  Now I wear gloves.  This discussion on EtBr has taken on the 
> qualities of arguments people use to rationalize not wearing sunscreen and 
> to continue smoking.  I hope as scientists we can be objective and not
let bias
> cloud an important issue.

Dear All 

Ever since doing a bit of Mol Biol. as an undergrad I have worn gloves. In
our lab, a mixed physiology lab where people do electrophys, biochem,
histology, nobody touches anything and I mean ANYTHING without wearing
gloves -  not even the mouse on this lab Mac!!!! As far as we are
concerned it is no hassle to wear them and you just cannot know what the
last person to use your gilson may have had all over their hands!
Consequently everything remains cleaner all round (apart from an increase
in talcum powder fingerprints!!) My husband works in Cancer studies and
although he wears gloves many people there do not bother even when
handling EtBr or P32 etc. Their slapdash attitude is partly laziness and
partly an attitude that ' this is the price you pay for doing research' -
which I think is a load of crap. We all have a responsibility to ourselves
and our families to conduct our work as safely as possible. Just because a
compound or chemical is not labelled carcinogenic or poisonous does not
mean that it isn't, so surely it is better to treat everything as a
potentail hazard and take precautions. This is basic lab sense, something
they start to teach at school and which it seems people begin to forget
just when they need it most.


Maxine Lintern
Dept Physiology
University of Birmingham
M.C.Lintern at

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