AAT Bioquest

How is ethidium bromide contamination removed?

Posted January 14, 2022


Ethidium bromide contamination may be removed by charcoal filtration. This involves filtering the aqueous EtBr waste solutions through a bed of activated charcoal. It’s important that the solution is free of other contaminants before this filtration. After decontamination, the filtrate may be poured down the drain.

In case of a small spill, absorb the liquid and use an ultraviolet light to locate trace amounts of ethidium bromide. Wash the contaminated area with a paper towel soaked in decontamination solution. Using a fresh paper towel each time, wash the affected area an additional 5 times. Soak all used towels in a freshly prepared decontamination solution for at least one hour before neutralizing them with sodium bicarbonate. Afterwards, the towels can be discarded in the trash and the decontamination solution may be rinsed down the sanitary sewer with water. To check if it has been thoroughly cleaned, shine the ultraviolet light over the contaminated area.

All items, non-labware and labware, that are obviously contaminated with ethidium bromide should be disposed of in the appropriate containers for hazardous waste disposal.

If the skin has been exposed, remove the contaminated clothing and wash skin with soap and water immediately.

In case of eye contact, flush eye(s) with water for at least 15 minutes lifting upper and lower eyelids occasionally.

If ethidium bromide vapors are inhaled, remove to fresh air.

If swallowed, get medical attention immediately.

Additional resources

Mechanistic insights into ethidium bromide removal by palygorskite from contaminated water

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