Safety Questionnaire Results

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From:"Tony Henwood" <>
To:HistoNet Server <>
Date:Wed, 15 Sep 1999 00:26:39 +0000
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Summary of Safety Survey I responses

A questionnaire containing four questions was posted on the Histonet late July, 1999. Within a few weeks 56 responses were emailed from around the world  (America, United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Australia). I will try to present th
e results in some logical manner, so wish me luck.

I would like to firstly say that there are no right or wrong answers. This was a survey of lab practices and peer comment. Hopefully it will urge us to think of what we do and whether it is the optimal for our particular situation.

Do you use a bunsen burner to heat forceps when you embed? 

YES........7		NO............. 49

Forceps warmers or some type of  bacti-incinerator were commonly used. I included Spirit burners in the YES vote  because they are an open flame.
Some respondents pointed out that in America if you CAP regulated, then Bunsen's would not be allowed. Many respondents reported fires occurring prior to Bunsen's being banned from the laboratory.

One Australian scientist wrote that if a "Workcare inspector walked into any Histo lab and found you using a Bunsen or any bare naked flame in an area with solvents, you would be given a PIN Notice, required to cease activity immediately and given seven 
days to meet any other matters requiring compliance. Failure to do so would mean immediate shut down of the facility".

Do you use an embedding centre to embed ? 

YES ........54		NO............2     

This speaks for itself. One lab is required to embed large samples and use the old L Irons. There is obviously no substitute in these circumstances. Is the embedding centre the best invention in the histo lab, or is it the automatic processor?

Do you use a 1% or 5% working solution of Potassium Ferrocyanide for 
the Perl's stain? 

I apologise for this question because it was not clear. As Jean Fisher points out:

**  Perl's stain is a specific stain for hemosiderin which utilizes 
10% Potassium Ferrocyanide in the production of the final Prussian Blue
**  Mallory's Method for Iron utilizes 5% Potassium Ferrocyanide.
**  Lillie's Method uses 1% Potassium Ferrocyanide.
**  Gomori's Method uses 20% Potassium Ferrocyanide.

I suppose, in my defence, I would have assumed that any compound containing cyanide would be toxic. It's seems, according to the SDS, I am wrong. Since the ferrocyanide would be a costly chemical then it seems reasonable to consider using the lower conce
ntration in the haemosiderin stain. Has any one compared the above stains? Is Gomori's more sensitive than Lillie's?

Anyway, here are the results
* Lillie's (1-2%)	27
* Mallory's (5%)	 6
* Perl's (10%)	 8
* Gomori's (20%)	 2
* Do not use		14

Do you use mercuric oxide in the preparation of Haematoxylin for your 
routine H&E? 

YES............ 7	NO........... 49

>From the survey only 7 used mercury in the preparation of their haematoxylin and over half are striving to replace it with a safer alternative.

The American Hospital Association is promoting an initiative to eliminate mercury from the hospital waste stream nation wide.

Nearly all professionals who have communicated with me expressed the sentiment that there was no need to use mercuric oxide formulations any more. There are alternatives.

Jean Fisher has suggested other issues that could do with some discussion in later surveys. Definitely some food for thought:

Do you still have Picric Acid in your laboratory?  If yes, what are you
doing to prevent an explosion?

Do you still use ether in your bacteria stains?  If yes, do you realize that
ethyl ether forms extremely explosive peroxides after the lead seal is
broken and the contents are exposed to oxygen. 


I would like to thank all respondents for their time and comments. I feel it is important to continue to question what we do. Are there better and safer ways of doing the tasks that we are expected to do every day?

Tony Henwood
Senior Scientist
Anatomical Pathology
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

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