Help! ethidium bromide accident!

S.Ballal ballal_sv at
Wed Nov 27 23:10:21 EST 2002

Dear Pedro,
I guess David has told you most of the things about EtBR. The possible
harm it can do is really very very less, esp the amount used in gels.
I had seen much  worse accident with powdered EtBr spreading all over
the lab spilled from a hand of a user.  Fortunately they all healthy
till date (about 5 years now)

So don't worry and enjoy.


David Micklem <dmicklem at cmgm.nospam.invalid> wrote in message news:<271120022318027589%dmicklem at cmgm.nospam.invalid>...
> In article <O8cF9.2102$LX4.2744363 at>, Pedro Lourenco
> <pedro.lourenco at> wrote:
> Assuming this isn't a troll...
> To put it in perspective, in the modified Ames test 5 micrograms of
> ethidium bromide (ie far far far far more than you are likely to have
> exposed your skin to) produces roughly 18 times _fewer_ revertants than
> the condensate from a _single_ cigarette (PNAS 1975, vol 72,
> p5135-5139).
> Add to that the fact that _most if not all_ of the ethidium bromide
> will have bound to protein in your skin, and got nowhere near your DNA.
> The risk to you from this exposure is miniscule. I believe that it is
> incredibly unlikely that your rash had anything to do with ethidium
> bromide.
> The UV light probably did your DNA more harm. Generally speaking, the
> UV transilluminator you use to look at your gels is probably much more
> of a real hazard to your health than the ethidium bromide is. (I know
> lots of people who are ultra-paranoid about ethidium bromide, but have
> managed to give themselves a UV sunburn off the transilluminator.
> Totally daft.)
> Relax, enjoy life.
> David
> >I am posting this message hoping to find someone that could share the
> >experience of having the skin contaminated with ethidium bromide.
> >
> >Last week at the end of the day I was in the lab fixing the plumbing of
> >pulse field equipment without gloves (big mistake, I am usually very
> >careful), trusting to have no problem since nobody was supposed to run gels
> >with EB on that equipment. Unfortunately someone used the equipment with a
> >gel with EB. I washed my hands very well afterwards and went home. In the
> >evening, I started to feel a little rash and to notice a slightly pink
> >coloration in some zones of my skin. I had a sudden presentiment and I
> >immediately thought of ethidium bromide.
> >
> >In the next morning I checked my hands with UV light and I found out that
> >they were lightly glowing specially in two more intense spots in their back
> >(surprisingly the palm of the hands didn't show any sign of glowing).
> >
> >I have to tell that I got pretty scared and I went to a doctor in that same
> >day. The doctor didn't know what to do since I had no acute symptoms and the
> >alterations on of my skin coloration were not obvious. The national
> >toxicology helpline (I'm from Portugal) said that they had no idea of that
> >compound. The doctor and the person in the toxicology helpline (also a
> >doctor) talked to each other and concluded that there was nothing much to do
> >except wash very well the hands with soap and not put anything that could
> >permeate the compound inside the body like solvents or creams. They also
> >said to relax since the chemical I hadn't wash in first day would be
> >attached to my skin and wouldn't pose a big danger to other people (can
> >anybody confirm?).
> >
> >Since UV can also do serious harm to your skin, I didn't check my hands
> >until today.
> >Today (almost one week later) I checked my hands with a not very potent blue
> >UV light I i only noticed a very slight EB glowing in the back of one hand.
> >Next I decided to risk and I checked in the lab UV table.
> >Though diminished a little glow was still there.
> >
> >Now I am getting nervous!
> >
> >Anybody know for experience how long is going to last the presence of EB in
> >the skin?
> >I presume that EB is bonded to proteins and DNA in my epidermis, which is
> >constituted by dead skin, but do you think it is dangerous to my family.
> >
> >The concentration of EB in the buffer that had contact with my hands should
> >be less than 0.01 micrograms/ml.
> >
> >Does anybody had similar experiences in the lab?
> >
> >Thank you in advance
> >
> >Pedro Lourenco

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