Ethidium bromide

Tim Spahlinger txs at
Wed Jul 18 08:16:29 EST 2001

My safety data sheet also indicates no known carcinogenic
hazard.  However, the following appears in the section
"Toxicological Information - Mutagenic Data" (the following
is condensed to only effects upon human cells/tissues): "DNA
adduct - human fibroblast 2 umol/L; DNA damage - human
leukocyte 5 mg/L; DNA inhibition - human HeLa cell 40
umol/L;", and several more listings are given for more

Maybe we should still "respect" EtBr's potential to cause

David Micklem wrote:
> In article <3b5528b7$1 at>, Bruno Cenni
> <bruno.removethis.cenni at> wrote:
> >...untreated sleeping sickness kills. And since there (still) are no really
> >good/safe drugs for its treatment, drugs that work in 90% of the patients
> >but lead to severe (ie deadly) complications in 10% are still used (that's
> >for melarsoprol an organo-arsenic compound, not EtBr). Now, if you're NOT
> >affected by sleeping sickness you may not want to take that risk...
> Fair point - but the historical use of EtBr should provide some data as
> to whether the risk of deadly complications is 10% or 0.0000001%. And
> were any complications due to the acute toxicity of ethidium bromide or
> genetic effects?
> >We used EtBr to differentiate apoptotic/necrotic/live unfixed cells in the
> >microscope, those with an intact cell membrane won't stain with EtBr because
> >it's charged and won't enter...
> Which surely suggests that it is unlikely to _actually_ be a serious
> human mutagen since it is unable to enter live cells.
> I'm not advocating taking a bath in the stuff, but is there any
> available _evidence_  to justify EtBr's role as the bogeyman of the
> mol-bio lab?
> There are a lot of hazardous materials/procedures in mol-bio labs but
> none of the others seem to generate quite the sort of safety-hysteria
> that EtBr does.
> David
> --
> D.R. Micklem,              Time flies like an arrow...
> Dept. of Anatomy,          Fruit flies like a banana.
> Cambridge University,      Email:dmicklem at
> Cambridge, UK              Phone: +44 (1223) 333776
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