ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Risks associated with procedures used in a medical museum from exposure to body fluids, tissues and fixative agents. Other hazards relate to the preparation of museum specimen jars which necessitates drilling and sanding perspex. This produces a fine dust which can be inhaled. A mask or respirator should be worn and in some cases (such as when using mechanical sanders) it may be necessary to use a dust extraction unit.104

Perspex cement is normally prepared by dissolving perspex chips in dichloroethane. Dichloroethane is a flammable liquid and a carcinogen and should be used only in a fume hood. Protective clothing, including rubber gloves, gown and mask should be worn.

Other safety factors which need to be considered are as follows:

  • Needle stick injuries can occur whilst stitching specimens to back plates. There is no danger of infection from such injuries provided that tissues are fixed but exposure to fixatives may cause local irritation.
  • Most fixatives and mounting fluids used in museum technique are hygroscopic and will remove fluid from exposed skin causing irritation.
  • Sodium dithionite is a flammable solid which can spontaneously combust given the right conditions. Handle and store it with care.
  • The process of mounting specimens into solid plastic should occur beneath a fume hood.


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