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Warning: Dihydrogen Monoxide is Worse Than Ethidium Bromide

Posted in: Lab Safety

ethidium-bromide-safetyPlease read and pass this life-saving information on to your friends.

A chemical that all of us use in the lab has turned out to be highly dangerous. It is an asphyxiant, can cause severe burns and is a contributor to the greenhouse effect. Medical organizations all over the world confirm it to be responsible for killing thousand of people, of all ages, every year.

Although there is no confirmed causative effect, there is also evidence to suggest that it is involved in the formation of cancer and has been found in excised tumors of EVERY kind.

Yes, spread the word. Dihydrogen monoxide, or hydric acid, is the silent killer that each of us are exposed to every day. If you need any further convincing, please visit the dihydrogen monoxide research division for further information.

But don’t worry. Safe alternatives and are already being developed and will be available soon… or if you feel compelled to continue to use dihydrogen monoxide you will also be able to buy disposal kit to minimize your impact on the environment.

Ok, so it’s a spoof. But interestingly, everything I have written (apart from the part about safe alternatives and disposal!), and everything on the site, is 100% accurate. It’s easy to see how, in the absence of critical thinking on the part of whoever receives this information, the fear of dihydrogen monoxide, or hydric acid (or water, just in case you didn’t get it yet) could be worked up into a hysteria.

But as scientists, inherently critical thinkers, we would never allow something like this to permeate into the scientific community, would we? We would never blindly accept a scare story like this, without examining the evidence. And we would certainly never allow blind acceptance to develop into such a hysteria that we would spend good money expensive “safe” substitutes and “environmentally friendly” disposal methods for our already safe, cheap and useful chemical.

Well, what about ethidium bromide? The popular myths about the dangers of ethidum bromide are just that – myths. There is no evidence to implicate ethidium bromide as a carcinogen or a mutagen in humans, and in fact there is evidence to suggest that it is perfectly safe.

If you feel the need to perpetuate the myths and the hysteria, about ethidium bromide you are free to do so. But before you do, it is your responsibility as a scientist to do one thing – read the evidence. If after doing so you still think that ethidium bromide is unsafe, then continue as you were – but don’t be guilty of blind acceptance. That’s just not science.

Looking for a good place to start your investigation of whether ethidium bromide is safe or not? Click here.

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  1. Nick on January 29, 2008 at 9:55 am


    Sure there are more sensitive dyes, but given that EtBr is cheap and sensitive enough for most applications, there is no inherent reason to get rid of it.

  2. maximilianh on January 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

    They claim that flash gels are 10 times more sensitive as ETB, right? Given that there are not thousands of stains available, couldn’t it be that there’s sybr gold in the flash gels?

    By the way: Has anyone ever tried to build a transilluminator with blue LEDs? I’ve tried one of those cheap blue keyring flashlights recently and could see my bands, but not too well. In theorie a blue flashligt should work better than a UV transilluminator and that’s also what they probably built into the flash gel frame…

  3. Kurt on January 29, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I think there are other reasons to get rid of the EtBr. There must be other more sensitive stains available now?

    Like the stain used in the FlashGel system?

  4. Nick on January 28, 2008 at 3:20 pm


    In my opinion, yours is the perfect response.

  5. Chad on January 28, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    A more senior lab tech I work with told me he wanted to get rid of all the EtBr in the lab and replace it with something that doesn’t cause cancer. I told him to shut up and check the research.

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