Ethidium bromide (EtBr), 3,8-diamino-5-ethyl-6-phenylphenanthridinium bromide, is commonly used as a non-radioactive marker for identifying and visualizing nucleic acid bands in electrophoresis and other methods of gel-based nucleic acid separation. EtBr is a dark red crystalline that readily fluoresces reddish-brown when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. EtBr is a potent mutagen and toxic after an acute exposure. It is an irritant to the skin, eyes, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. Direct contact with EtBr should be avoided.
The best practice for handling EtBr, as with handling any chemical, is to consult the MSDS prior to usage. Pure EtBr should always be handled in a chemical fume hood. A laboratory that uses EtBr can easily become contaminated if appropriate precautions are not taken. The following best management practices are recommended for all EtBr laboratories:
Ensure all personal protective equipment (PPE) is in good condition and worn at all times when using EtBr. At a minimum, PPE should include a lab coat, closed-toe shoes, chemically-resistant gloves, and chemical safety goggles. Latex gloves give very little protection against EtBr! Nitrile gloves are an effective short-term barrier. Upon removal of the gloves, wash hands thoroughly. If using EtBr for extended periods, double-gloving gives better protection. Remember to change outer gloves frequently to minimize contamination.
For accidental exposures to:
EtBr waste must be collected and managed as hazardous waste, not biological waste. Items that have come into contact with EtBr such as PPE, absorbent materials, liners or other debris must also be collected as hazardous waste. All EtBr waste, including debris, should be placed in an appropriate container and labeled accordingly. For agarose gels containing EtBr, a plastic bucket with a tight fitting lid is preferred. All EtBr waste containers must be suitable for transportation and must not be leaking. For removal of EtBr waste from your laboratory, submit a Hazardous Materials Pickup Request Form .
Decontamination should be performed using the following solution:
To perform decontamination: