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ABP Carcinogens and Other Toxic Chemicals in Rodents

1. Purpose and Scope

This Animal Biosafety Procedure (ABP) describes prudent practices, procedures, and equipment to reduce risk when introducing carcinogens and other toxic chemical agents in laboratory rodents. Specific precautions will vary depending on the particular chemical, dose, route of administration, and metabolism of the chemical. An agent is considered carcinogenic or toxic if so indicated in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or listed in Reference documents (Section 9). The use of carcinogens and toxic chemical agents must conform to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication, 29 CFR 1910.1200.

Alternative practices, procedures, and equipment may be used, but they must be described in a user-generated standard operating procedure, and approved by EHS and the IACUC before use.

2. Responsibilities

The Principal Investigator will ensure that personnel are made aware of the hazards associated with the carcinogen or toxic chemical and that they receive training commensurate with their activities prior to commencing experiments. Personnel will comply with the safe work practices and procedures described within this Animal Biosafety Procedure.

3. Administrative Controls

  • 3.1 Training

    • 3.1.1 Receive laboratory-specific training for the manipulation of the chemical agent, symptoms associated with accidental exposure, and spill and exposure response procedures.
    • 3.1.2 Complete EHS Laboratory Safety, Chemical Waste Disposal, and Carcinogen Safety training modules, and review the laboratory’s Chemical Hygiene Plan.
    • 3.1.3 Review the Material Safety Data Sheet or other information sheets and standard operating procedures for use of the chemical.
    • 3.1.4 CARE and EHS will provide additional on-site training, as necessary.
  • 3.2 Access and Signage
    • 3.2.2 Inform the facility manager prior to using carcinogens or toxic chemical agents in rodents.
    • 3.2.3 Review the hazards and potential risks of the experiment, and complete IACUC module 2 before accessing the animal facility.
    • 3.2.4 The facility supervisor will post a hazard sign at the animal room. Research, EHS, and CARE staff will develop information contained in the sign, which will include:
      • The chemical or carcinogen symbol
      • The name of the Principal Investigator and IACUC protocol number
      • Name of chemical agent, as well as human and animal clinical signs of exposure
      • Potential shedding of the agent or toxic metabolite by the animal
      • Personal protective equipment
      • Deactivating or neutralization solutions
      • Contact information for CARE, EHS, and Cornell Health
    • 3.2.5 Post a hazard ID card on cages that contain exposed animals. The card will include the carcinogen/chemical symbol, the name of the chemical, the date of administration, and any other special handling instructions. This card must remain in place for at least seven days after the last administration of the chemical, unless indicated otherwise.
  • 3.3 Medical Surveillance

    • 3.3.1 Participate in the Animal Users Health and Safety Program (AUHSP).

4. Work Practice and Procedure Controls

  • 4.1 Administration into Animals

    • 4.1.1 See Sections 5.1, engineering controls, and 6.1, personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • 4.1.2 Use an appropriate manual or physical restraint device. If the procedure or conditions of administration pose too high a risk with an awake animal (e.g., severe adverse effects of accidental exposure, inexperienced individual performing the procedure), sedate the animal prior to administration of the chemical.
    • 4.1.3 Use an approved chemical fume hood and appropriate personal protective equipment when preparing chemicals or for procedures that may aerosolize the agents. Consider covering work areas with absorbent toweling to aid in spill management and cleanup.
  • 4.2 Sharps Handling

    • 4.2.1 Substitute plasticware for glassware whenever possible, and implement the following practices described in the table:
      • Safe Practices for Handling Sharps
        Limit the use of sharps to when no other alternatives are available
        Keep all sharps in full view at all times
        Use only Luer-lock syringes and needles or units where the needle is integral to the syringe
        Implement safety engineered sharps where practical (retractable needles, needle tip shields, self-sheathing scalpels, etc)
        Dispose of sharps directly, without manipulation (i.e., do not bend, shear, break, recap, or use hands to remove needles from syringes or blades from scalpels), in an approved sharps disposal container. Maintain disposal container in animal room within arm’s reach
        Handle broken glass or other sharps with a secondary device such as forceps or broom and dustpan- not your hands
    • 4.2.2 Do not recap needles. However, if recapping must be done first receive approval by EHS and the IACUC, and use one of the following two methods: one handed scoop technique; forceps or tongs to place the cap on the needle.

  • 4.3 Hygiene

    • 4.3.1 Eating, drinking, smoking, handling contact lenses, applying cosmetics, storing food for human consumption, and mouth pipetting are strictly prohibited in animal facilities.
    • 4.3.2 Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after removing gloves.
    • 4.3.3 If working long hours in a rodent room consider taking a full body shower to reduce the amount of potential allergens present on your body.
      • For more information, see ACUP 713: Hygiene – Hand Washing

  • 4.4 Deactivation and Spill Response

    • 4.4.1 Clean up work surfaces and equipment where chemicals are prepared. The solution used to deactivate the particular chemical may include freshly prepared 10-20% bleach solution (1:10 or 1:5 dilutions), 0.1 N sodium hydroxide (NaOH), or other suitable material (consult MSDS).
    • 4.4.2 Cover spills of powder or solutions with absorbent towels/pads and saturate with deactivating solution; do not sweep or vacuum dry materials. Allow 15-30 minutes contact time to achieve adequate deactivation. Dispose of cleanup materials in a chemical waste bag (e.g., yellow carcinogen bag, clear bag with chemical label) and wash area three times with soap and water.
  • 4.5 Handling of Waste

    • 4.5.1 Carefully apply deactivating solution (e.g., bleach, NaOH) to bedding inside cage at first cage change and up to seven days post administration. When possible, work inside biosafety cabinet.
    • 4.5.2 Dispose of sharps-related items (e.g., needles, syringes, Pasteur pipettes, and blood tubes) directly in a sharps disposal container. Affix chemical label when applicable.
    • 4.5.3 Dispose of non-sharps items (e.g., gloves, intact plasticware) in chemical waste bag.
    • 4.5.4 Collect excess solution and sample tubes in appropriately labeled chemical containers for disposal by EHS.
    • 4.5.5 Place carcasses (no gloves, plastic, etc.) in bags suitable for disposal in the Waste Management digester. Wipe bags with appropriate deactivating solution and store all bags in a large chemical-labeled bag or chemical-labeled drawer in refrigerator. Alternatively, roll up carcasses in bench diapers and place them directly in chemical-labeled bags. These bags will be disposed of offsite.
    • 4.5.6 Animal care staff will dispose of waste and carcasses, unless other arrangements are made.
  • 4.6 Transport of Chemicals

    • 4.6.1 Transport chemical agents and contaminated samples between the laboratory and animal facility in a sealed, secondary container with absorbent toweling, and labeled with the chemical symbol.
  • 4.7 Tissue Harvest

    • 4.7.1 When possible, perform tissue harvest in a certified class II biosafety cabinet- use a tray or bench diaper to collect fluids. Use tape instead of pins to secure carcass. Mucous membrane protection is required if a biosafety cabinet cannot be used (see section 6).
    • 4.7.2 When possible use only one sharps item (e.g., scalpel, scissors) at a time and keep in full view.
    • 4.7.3 Place any harvested tissue or fluids in appropriate primary containers (e.g., screw top vial, sealable plastic bag), and transport as per section 4.6.
    • 4.7.4 Follow the sharps handling practices outlined in section 4.2.

5. Engineering Controls

  • 5.1 Use of Certified Chemical Fume Hood/Biosafety Cabinet

    • 5.1.1 Reconstitute powders in a certified chemical fume hood.
    • 5.1.2 Perform all procedures carefully to minimize the creation of aerosols. Whenever possible, conduct procedures with a potential for aerosol generation in an approved chemical fume hood or ducted biosafety cabinet.
    • 5.1.3 Whenever possible, conduct cage changing and tissue harvest in a certified biosafety cabinet.
  • 5.2 Housing and Handling of Animals

    • 5.2.1 House animals in a primary containment device appropriate for the rodent species, such as a ventilated micro-isolator cage or static micro-isolator cage with a filter top.
    • 5.2.2 Cages and bedding are considered contaminated for at least seven days after the last administration of the chemical agent. Alternative times (e.g., three days for BrdU) will be considered when supported by experimental or published data.
    • 5.2.3 Once the prescribed holding time is satisfied animals are no longer considered contaminated and can be handled with normal husbandry procedures.
    • 5.2.4 Use forceps, when possible, to transfer contaminated animals between cages.

6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • 6.1 Consult the SDS for guidance on glove selection. Not all glove types provide adequate protection.

  • 6.2 Don the following minimum PPE before entering animal rooms:

    • Safety glasses or safety goggles (when administrations are performed outside of a chemical fume hood or biosafety cabinet)

    • Disposable fluid resistant, solid front gown

    • Disposable gloves - Use double gloves when handling and administering the chemical - outer glove should overlay cuff of gown to provide continuous protection

  • 6.3 Wear additional PPE (e.g., face shield, respiratory protection, cut/bite resistant gloves) when appropriate engineering controls are not available, or as indicated by the agent, hazards, or experimental conditions.

  • 6.4 Solid toed shoes are required for entry into animal rooms.

  • 6.5 Change gloves frequently during activities to avoid contamination of equipment and surfaces. Remove and replace other PPE if contaminated or breached.

  • 6.6 Remove PPE upon exiting the animal room and dispose in chemical waste bag. First remove outer gloves, gown (turning inside out), shoe covers while stepping out of the room (step-over technique), inner gloves, and eye wear. Wash reusable eyewear with soap and water.

    • For more information, see ACUP 715: Personal Protective Equipment

7. Response to Accidental Exposures

  • 7.1 Personnel who sustain an overt exposure such as a splash to mucous membranes, direct contact with open wounds, or a sharps injury should:

  1. Wash exposed area with soap and water or rinse in eye wash for at least 15 minutes
  2. Perform first aid, if applicable
  3. Notify supervisor
  4. Seek medical evaluation at Cornell Health, Occupational Medicine (607-255-6960 (off hours 607-255-5155)) as soon as possible after an exposure. Have SDS or other information document readily available.
  5. After hours seek evaluation at Cayuga Medical Center.
  6. Contact Cornell Health Occupational Medicine if you develop symptoms suggestive of exposure to the chemical agent.
  7. Document exposures, injuries, and illnesses in the Cornell University Injury/Illness/Exposure Incident Reporting 
  • For more information, see ACUP 707: Animal Related Injury

8. Emergency Phone Numbers

Updated June 15, 2020

More Information


  1. Hazard Communication, 29 CFR 1910.1200. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  2. Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, 5th edition. 2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health.
  3. National Research Council 1995. Prudent Practices in the Laboratory. National Academy Press: Washington D.C.
  4. 14th Report on Carcinogens
  5. NIOSH Carcinogen List. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  6. List of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, Toxics and Reactives. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  7. Toxic Release Inventory Program. Environmental Protection Agency.
  8. Known and Probable Human Carcinogens. American Cancer Society.