ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




A toxic or poisonous substance is one which when introduced in sufficient quantity into an animal by ingestion or absorption, destroys or threatens to destroy life or injure health.34 Any toxic or poisonous chemical must be labelled accordingly and handled only when wearing disposable gloves. Fume hoods should be used for handling particularly hazardous substances. Safe handling and disposal instructions must be documented and readily available.

The list of poisonous substances is too long to be included. However, laboratories should keep a list of all chemicals, dyes and other substances used together with all relevant material safety data sheets.

In cases of poisoning DO NOT attempt mouth to mouth resuscitation as this could result in the accidental poisoning of the would be rescuer.

Poison Kits (antidotes)
Antidote kits, for poisons handled in the laboratory, should be provided for use in an emergency and staff instructed in their administration.

Commercial kits are not readily available however for most poisons, kits can be prepared by a Pharmacy. All laboratories using cyanide should have a kit, containing the antidote di-cobalt tetra acetate, available for immediate use. If cyanide poisoning occurs and antidote is not available seek immediate medical assistance.


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