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Environment, Health and Safety

Ethidium Bromide Disposal

All ethidium bromide solutions and gels must be collected and treated as if it were a hazardous waste, unless the ethidium bromide has been removed by one of the methods listed below. All grossly contaminated materials such as gloves, wipes, etc. must also be collected and placed in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.

Did You Know:

There are alternatives to using ethidium bromide - contact EH&S for more information

Failure to remove ethidium from solutions prior to disposal contaminates municipal wastewater systems and violates water discharge regulations for the Town of Amherst and the City of Buffalo.

Removing Ethidium Bromide

Destaining Bag

Typical Destaining Bag Used to Remove Ethidium Bromide

EH&S recommends the use of ethidium bromide waste reduction systems such as destaining bags or filter extractors. Removing the ethidium bromide from dilute solutions reduces the volume of liquid ethidium bromide waste and thus a savings on disposal costs for UB.

Destaining bags offer a way to remove ethidium bromide from solution and gels for safe and easy disposal. Continental Lab Products, ICS BioExpress, BioWorld (and others) offers Ethidium bromide destaining bags. When you get to the sites, type "destaining bags" in Search and it will take you to the ordering page.

Another device designed to remove ethidium bromide is the S&S Extractor from Schleicher & Schuell or VWR. This device is designed to remove from up to 10 liters of gel staining solutions with >99% efficiency.

Whatever waste reduction system used, a written protocol should be developed. An example procedure would include the following steps:

Using destaining bags:

  • Drop a destaining bag into your solution (or solution containing a gel).
  • Periodically swirl it around a few times.
  • Let it stand overnight.
  • In the morning, remove the bag and place it in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.
  • Perform UV check of the solution (and gel). If it no longer fluoresces, pour the solution down the drain - provided no other hazardous chemicals are present. Destained gels can be put into the trash - DO NOT PUT GELS DOWN THE SINK DRAIN.
Extreactor 2

Extractor use to remove Ethidium Bromide

Using filter extractors:

  • Attach the extractor to a vacuum source via 1/4 - 1/2" vacuum tubing. Place a waste container under the extractor, making sure the extractor fits securely on top of the waste container that the waste solution is to be filtered into.
  • Remove the cover of the extractor; apply vacuum while holding the unit. The solution (or solution containing a gel) may now be poured through the extractor.
  • If the solution is viscous or partially gelled, a five percent urea solution may be added to dissolve gel.
  • Perform UV check of the solution. If it no longer fluoresces, pour the solution down the drain - provided no other hazardous chemicals are present.
  • Remove the filter (when spent or clogged) and place it in a properly labeled hazardous waste container.