AAT Bioquest

How should ethidium bromide be safely handled?

Posted January 14, 2022


Ethidium bromide is a mutagen and suspected carcinogen and teratogen. It is also a skin, eye, and upper respiratory tract irritant at high concentrations. As a highly toxic substance, there are several protocols regarding safe handling of ethidium bromide:  

  • Pure ethidium bromide must always be handled in a fume hood while wearing full protective clothing including nitrile gloves, long sleeved lab coat, chemical safety goggles, and closed-toe shoes.
  • Double gloving with nitrile gloves is recommended when working with high concentrations of ethidium bromide to minimize the risk of exposure. Latex gloves do not offer effective protection against EtBr.
  • UV blocking eyewear must be worn at all times when using an ultraviolet light to visualize EtBr. Alternatively, visualization using ultraviolet light can be carried out in a UV cabinet with shielding glass.
  • Stock solution preparations and other processes that can potentially generate EtBr dust or fumes must be carried out in a fume hood to prevent inhalation.
  • An emergency shower and eyewash must be available and easily accessible nearby in case of accidental exposure.
  • Users must wash their hands thoroughly after removing their gloves even if the gloves are not punctured or torn. This helps to eliminate any residual EtBr from the skin.
Additional resources

Are other fluorescent tags used instead of ethidium bromide safer?

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