Just how you make Alcian blue has been unclear in the fifty or sixty
years the dye's been on the market.
It is, of course, an entirely synthetic product - it doesn't grow in
little blue flowers.
For many years Alcian blue was made in Germany, but the manufacturer
decided that one of the synthetic intermediates (never publicly
identified that I know of) was too hazardous to work with, and
A number of companies in China, India, and elsewhere began to make
Alcian blue and sell it. None of them ever made clear how they made the
A few years ago Dick Dapson at ANATECH announced that he had invented
an environmentally safe process for makiing Alcian blue, and ANATECH
began to offer this product. They stated that they also sold it to
other vendors - I don't know whether they ever made public who they
sold it to. ANATECH's new synthetic process is also a trade secret.
Manufacture in China and probably in other countries continues. I
receive frequent e-mail advertisements for Alcian blue and other dyes
from Suzhou Sinoera Chem Co. in China. (As a matter of fact, they've
published an advertisement on Histonet today.) As far as I know, they
have not publicly stated how they make Alcian blue.
If I were purchasing Alcian blue and related dyes, I would be concerned
that the product I bought was safe for the environment and for the
workers who produce it.
I have no connection with ANATECH, Suzhou Sinoera, or any other company
involved in the manufacture or distribution of histologic dyes and
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