Setting up a lab at home

Tony Hodge tph at
Thu Sep 7 04:12:08 EST 1995

In article <42khnk$36l at> Bill Knighton/Susan
Hogarth, knighton at writes:
>Subject: Re: Setting up a lab at home
>From: Bill Knighton/Susan Hogarth, knighton at
>Date: 6 Sep 1995 16:20:04 GMT


You're probably right about this being more fun on Usenet rather
than Email - I expected to get large numbers of mails either flames
or otherwise but have so far only received two - one in my favour
(thanks Arturo) and one abusive which I bined (I guess you never met
my girlfriend-wife actually!).

Are we talking at cross purposes?  I don't 'insist on equating small
with sloppy' etc (evidence the continually growing number of small
molbio companies turning out good products), but I do question
strongly whether a domestic building is equiped/licensed to handle
the kind of wates I produce in my own work eg phenol, ethidium,
heavy metals (Cs, Ag, Au) 32P 35S etc. almost certainly not in any
significant quantity.  The GOOD NEWS is that many of the kits now
available have simplified a significant proportion of my protocols
AND cleaned them up into the bargain so maybe there are some things
that could be done safely at home. (see the post from Duncan Clark)

>And what *I* was saying is that having to be _personally_ responsible for the regulation 
>compliance in one's own lab would surely make a person think twice (or more!) >before dumping 
>ethidium bromide or phenol down the sink...

Absolutely - at least I hope that would be the case but as I
mentioned the level of detailed knowlegde (NOT disregard) of such
regulations (maybe there are too many - I don't think so) might not
support this as being a safe way to proceed - even under the
umbrella of a large organisation I am still responsible for the way
I deal with such things I cannot just let my employer carry the can.

>I don't believe 
>I've ever tried to equate running my own lab with flaunting regulations. To follow your 
>analogy, all I was saying (or trying to say) was that I would be the one responsible for 
>knowing the regulations applying to the transport of dogs, and that I would be the one 
>responsible for seeing that they were followed. Does that make sense?

I guess I can't ask for more than that.

>I'm concerned that you didn't respond to my inquiry about Bhopal and >Cherynobyl. What was the 
>point you were trying to make with those examples? In my opinion, they were disasters of 
>industry, not science. Are you agreeing with me by dropping the subject, or >what? i'm afraid I 
>still don't understand the arguement you were trying to make.

OK, the connection I was trying to address (and by the way thanks to
Arturo for pointing out that I spelt Seveso wrong) was the following

>By the way, if the DEA comes 'round, I'll just sic my dog on 'em; and as for
>the neighbors, I plan to avoid the type of Yuppie housing with restrictive
>covenants, and if "John Bull" can have his woodworking shop, surely "Sue Yank"
>can have her home-lab. 

It was my _opinion_ that at least the factory in Bhopal was
built/operated in a 3rd world country under possibly lower safty
standards and requiredments than might have pertained in the
company's home nation in order to avoid just those regulations.  In
planing to avoid neighbourhoods which you describe in such hostile
terms were you, albeit to a much lesser degree, simply looking for
the lowest level of social requirements in where you wanted to do
this stuff? (Cherynobyl was meant to be an example of lack of
sensible regulation and Seveso an example from the west)

I did of course say "No I'm not suggesting you could cause damage on
that scale" but even a minor spillage/accident in a residential area
would not be welcomed.

To get back to the original question of setting up a 'basic
"molecular biology" laboratory' in your home - to me 'molecular
biology' can encompass a wide range of scientific investigation, but
for my own small part it would be irresponsible to carry out such
work at home - your experiments may be different, not involve
genetically modified organisms or toxic/hazardous waste and be no
more hazardous than brewing your own beer (which I do at home) or
having a home photo lab (which I have also done).

Can you detect a 'summing up' feel to this post?  It's quite obvious
that we are of two radically different opinions and may never reach
a consensus.  Basically I wouldn't do it and I would be concerned if
my next door neighbour did.  Incidently one of my former neighbours
appeared to run an in vitro fertilisation business from his garage. 
I never saw any N2 delivered and there was likely no hazard, another
neighbour sprayed cars on our communal drive - much more annoying
and disruptive to the rest of us.

Tony P Hodge
Structural Studies Division
MRC-LMB,  Hills Road 
Cambridge,  CB2  2QH,  UK
Tel (01223) 402260
Fax (01223) 213556
tph at

More information about the Methods mailing list