Working with Bromodeoxyuridine (BRDU) - OHS information sheet

May 2011

What is Bromodeoxyuridine?

Bromodeoxyuridine (5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine, BrdU) is an odourless white powder, a synthetic nucleoside and an analogue of thymidine. BrdU is commonly used in the detection of proliferating cells in living tissues and works by substituting for thymidine during DNA replication thereby incorporating itself into the newly synthesized DNA. Antibodies specific for BrdU can then be used to detect the incorporated chemical, thus indicating cells that were actively replicating their DNA.

Health hazards associated with BrdU

Because BrdU can replace thymidine during DNA replication, it can cause genetic mutations, birth defects and other inheritable genetic effects. Any staff member or student who are pregnant and likely to come into contact with BrdU should contact the Occupational Health and Safety branch (OH&S).

Procedures to be followed when working with BrdU

A risk assessment must be completed BEFORE the commencement of any project, procedure or task involving BrdU.

  • Prior to working with BrdU, all staff and students must be trained in procedures for its safe handling, use, storage and disposal. The principal investigator or supervisor is responsible for this training, which must be documented, include a discussion of the known and potential hazards and an explanation of the relevant procedures and techniques to be followed.
  • A correctly functioning fume cupboard must be used when preparing BrdU solutions and loading syringes with solution .
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn.
  • Containers of BrdU and any secondary containers must be properly labelled.
  • Transportation of the chemical should be performed using a sealed, non-breakable secondary container. Safe Work Instructions (SWI) must be developed for delivery and storage of the chemical; the SWI should have a contingency for broken or leaking bottles.
  • Emergency procedures specifically for exposure to BrdU need to be displayed in the work area.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Eye protection, disposable nitrile gloves and laboratory coats should be worn when preparing or working with BrdU.
  • Respiratory protection is not normally necessary but where protection from dust is required as indicated by the risk assessment, use type P2 dust masks. Where aerosols are present use approved respirators and components. A Fit Test must be completed by OH&S prior to the use of any dust mask or respirator to ensure that an adequate seal exist between the mask and the face.

Preparing BrdU solutions

  • Always handle BrdU inside an operating fume cupboard.
  • Wear appropriate eye protection, a laboratory coat and disposable nitrile gloves.
  • Always wash hands with soap and water after removing gloves following the handling of BrdU.
  • Clean areas where BrdU has been handled by adding water and placing paper towels on top. Follow with a soap and water wash. The paper towels should then be placed into a plastic bag labelled Bromodeoxyuridine for disposal.

Injecting animals with BrdU

  • Wear PPE as above and a 2nd pair of nitrile gloves.
  • Where appropriate, all animals should be injected with BrdU while within a designated fume cupboard.
  • All needles must be disposed of in sharps container. Do not recap or bend needles.
  • A SWI must be posted on the door of the room in which the animals will be housed.
  • Fresh cages must be used for the animals at the time of injection.

Cage handling

  • All cages must be clearly labelled "Bromodeoxyuridine"to indicate its presence after the animals have been injected.
  • The risks from excreta-contaminated animal bedding or residual food can be reduced by using heavy absorbent paper rather than sawdust in cages.
  • Cages and bedding are considered contaminated for a minimum of three days after each injection of BrdU.
  • The first cage changeafter each drug injection must be done no sooner than 3 days after the injection.
  • After the first cage change there is no need for further special precautions to be taken regarding the animals or the cages as long as the animals have not received any more BrdU.

Cleaning of animal cages contaminated with BrdU

  • Ensure that eye protection, a laboratory coat, disposable nitrile gloves and appropriate respiratory protection (See Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) above) is worn at all times
  • All potentially contaminated animal carcasses, bedding, absorbent paper and miscellaneous solid wastes should be double bagged in biohazard bags, clearly labelled "Bromodeoxyuridine" and stored securely whilst awaiting disposal.
  • Wash cages with cold water followed by hot water and detergent. Do not use a hose as this may generate aerosols. Then wash cages as per normal wash procedure.

Disposal of BrdU

  • All potentially contaminated animal carcasses, tissue samples, bedding, other laboratory or animal house materials and unused BrdU should be double bagged in biohazard bags, clearly labelled "Bromodeoxyuridine" and stored securely whilst awaiting disposal.
  • Contaminated sharps should be placed in a sharps container clearly labelled "Bromodeoxyuridine.
  • All waste must be disposed of in compliance with the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009.

Managing spills of BrdU

  • All persons in the laboratory shall be evacuated immediately if there is a significant spill of BrdU.
  • Follow the chemical spill procedures in the Monash University Emergency Procedures (333) Booklet.
  • In the event of a small spill, only properly equipped and trained persons should be assigned to the clean up.
  • Eye protection, a laboratory coat, disposable nitrile gloves and appropriate respiratory protection (See Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) above) must be worn.
  • The material should be wiped up with absorbent paper - if the material is in a powder form the absorbent paper should be wetted with water.
  • The area of the spill should then be cleaned with soap and water. Wash hands with soap and water after cleaning up the spill.
  • Waste generated from the spill should be double bagged in biohazard bags, and clearly labelled "Bromodeoxyuridine" and stored securely whilst awaiting disposal.
  • If necessary, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) may be used to clean up the spill in accordance with the Guidelines for the provision & utilisation of self contained breathing Apparatus (SCBA) (pdf 121kb).

Exposure to BrdU- First aid

  • Personal or significant laboratory contamination must be reported immediately to the laboratory supervisor.
  • Accidental skin contact with BrdU should be treated immediately by rinsing the affected parts in cold running water for at least 15 minutes, followed by thorough washing with soap and water. If necessary, the person should shower and change contaminated clothing and shoes, and then must seek medical attention.
  • In the case of eye exposure, the eye should be irrigated immediately with cold running water for 15 minutes before seeking medical attention.
  • If inhaled, remove person to fresh air and seek medical attention immediately.
  • If ingested, DO NOT induce vomiting. Rinse mouth with water (never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person). Seek medical attention immediately.
  • An incident report must be completed for all above situations.
  • Contaminated clothing e.g. lab coats must be disposed of as per animal carcasses (see above); or washed as described in the MSDS.

Further information

For further information contact your Biosafety Officer, local OHS&E Consultant or Occupational Health and Safety: