Electrophoresis safety question

Jakobs f1221 at CC.NAGASAKI-U.AC.JP
Wed Jun 17 00:42:05 EST 1998

Dear Jen,

An electrophoresis rig without the lid on is no life hazard.

The most likely >accident< is that you stick
one finger into the buffer : you don`t notice anything at all,
at least not at 100 V (about 300 mA with our buffer).
If you put two fingers into the tank (parallel to the current),
you notice a slight tingling at about 10 V, if you increase the
voltage to about 80 V, it becomes somewhat unpleasant.
It is hardly possile to touch both leads at the same time by
accident, but it is not recommendable.

Electricity hazards (burns and upsetting the heart) depend more
on the current and, in case of AC, on its frequency as the heart
is not equally vulnerable to all frequencies.
If you hold your finger into the tank of an electrophoresis
chamber, >most of< the current (DC) will still pass through the buffer
because it has a lower resistance than skin.

Sequencing gels can be more violent.
I once toched the front glass plate of a sequencing gel, which must
have had a buffer leak. The shock did almost >blast me against the wall<,
as Wolfgang put it. Obviously, I`m still alive but I was quite impressed.

Best Regards,


Dr. T. Jakobs
Inst. of Human Genetics
University of Nagasaki

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