National Biosafety Month 2022: Replace with Safer Alternatives

September 21 2022

during National Biosafety Month In October, EHS encourages laboratories to work with biohazards to identify hazards that can be replaced with a safer alternative to reduce the potential for harm while performing the same role.

Examples of safer alternatives include:

  • Replace needles and razors: Consider alternatives to sharps for in vitro procedures. Tools such as sharp needles and micropipette tips can replace needles. Plastic gel cutters are a safe alternative to razors for cutting gels. Use a cutting tool instead of a razor blade to open chests. The Sharps safety The webpage has more information about sharp alternatives.
  • Replace lab glass with plastic: Using plastic instead of glass can greatly reduce potential injuries and exposures from broken glass. Try Pasteur polystyrene pipettes in a single sterile package instead of fragile glass Pasteur pipettes. Choose plastic utensils over glass when possible.
  • Uses The method of gene delivery is less riskyIf you are using first- or second-generation lentivirus vectors for gene delivery, consider using a third-generation lentivirus vector instead. Older generations of lentivirus vectors may generate reproducing and pathogenic viruses. Third-generation lentiviral vectors use a segmented gene mobilization strategy that requires multiple recombination events that essentially render them incapable of generating a replication-competent virus.
  • use Substitute organism less pathogens: The use of fewer types or strains of pathogenic organisms may reduce the level of biosafety and health risks in the event of exposure. For example, use a phage as a substitute for a virus or avirulent or attenuated strains of a particular bacteria (for example, using Mycobacterial tuberculosis H37Ra strain instead of H37Rv).
  • Switch to safer chemicals: Chemicals commonly used in biological research have less risky options, such as substituting coloring alternatives to SYBR Safe, GelRed, or EZ-Vision dyes for ethidium bromide, a known mutagen. Consider replacing dangerous protein purification compounds with kits like Pefabloc SC.

When evaluating potential alternatives, remember that an effective alternative is one that can reduce the potential for adverse effects and work Not Introducing new risks.

Substitution is one way to mitigate risks that includes Hierarchy of ControlsAn approach to assessing how to reduce or reduce the risk of adverse outcomes when working with a hazard is presented in the Lab RAT. Replacing risks will not eliminate the need for other controls, such as administrative controls and proper use of personal protective equipment. Using all the different risk mitigation strategies in the hierarchy of controls will create a safer work environment.

If your lab has identified creative ways to replace hazardous agents, tools, or activities with safer alternatives, we’d love to hear your story and share it with other labs!

For any questions or comments, please contact the EH&S Biosafety Team at or 206-221-7770.