The IACUC must pay particular attention to proposals employing potentially hazardous materials, including:
hazardous chemicals, and
These all have the potential of causing harm to animals in the facility and the personnel caring for and using them.
Some hazardous materials are strictly controlled by federal, state and local regulations. Radiation Safety Committees (RSCs) and Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) have been mandated by the federal government to ensure that certain radioactive materials and recombinant DNA materials are handled safely. The role of these committees may be extended to consider research involving human and animal pathogens. The IACUC should be generally familiar with the responsibilities of the various safety commit-tees and organizations at their institution and the institution should ensure that the functions of the committees are coordinated. Animal research proposals should be consistent with the procedures required by the IBC.
In addition to the various safety committees, institutions should have professional staff or resources available to handle chemical, biological and radiological agents. The National Research Council publication, Occu-pational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals, is a valuable resource for IACUC members. This publication covers a wide variety of occupational health and safety issues, including information on working with hazardous materials in research animals.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) directly, or by its state designee, issues licenses permitting institutions to procure, use and dispose of specified radioactive materials. These licenses do not cover:
radioactive materials from sources other than reactor by-products, al-though these are all sources of ionizing radiation.
RSCs have oversight for the procurement, use and disposal of radioactive materials; therefore, their approval should be coordinated with IACUC review of any proposal that involves radioactivity. General information on potential health risks from exposure to ionizing radiation can be found in the USNRC Regulatory Guide.
Infectious diseases may be a factor in many animal studies due to natural infections as well as those specifically induced as part of research. Consensus biosafety guidelines have been established for the use of animals in research involving infectious agents (Biosafety in Micro-biological/and Biomedical Laboratories). These guidelines provide a concept for assessing risks and selecting appropriate safeguards. Four biosafety levels, which consist of combinations of practices, safety equipment and facilities, are described in this CDC/NIH document.
Certain human pathogens as listed in the Select Agent List (Appendix A, 42 CFR 72.6) must be registered and approved by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prior to transfer from one registered facility to the other. Similar requirements are in place with the USDA for the transfer of foreign animal disease agents.
The NIH publication, Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules, promulgated by the NIH Office of Biotechnology Activities, also includes four biosafety levels and represents a key reference for work involving recombinant microorganisms. Recombinant DNA experiments involving animals also require approval from the IBC.
In addition to animal care concerns, activities involving hazardous chemicals require procedures for:
It is also necessary to determine whether the chemicals will be present in feed, feces or urine. A rigorous review to ensure appropriate safety prac-tices, containment equipment and facility safeguards is essential for animal experiments involving chemical inhalation.
Proposals submitted to the IACUC must include sufficient documentation to assess the adequacy of precautions to control exposure of personnel to the hazardous agents involved in animal experiments. The identification by the IACUC of protocols involving hazardous chemicals (e.g., the use of known carcinogens to induce tumors in animal models, determinations of carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, or teratogenicity, or acute toxicity studies) is essential for institutional compliance with health and safety standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laboratory standard “Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in the Laboratory” is of particular importance. The IACUC should be familiar with the requirement in this standard for a chemical hygiene plan for controlling exposures to hazardous chemicals. Written standard operating procedures may be required describing appropriate safety precautions and specific “designated areas” where hazardous chemicals will be used or stored.
One health and safety issue common to most IACUCs concerns the use of the inhalation agent ether for anesthesia and euthanasia. Ether forms explosive peroxide when stored in metal containers and must be used with special precautions because of its volatility and flammability. Ether must be used with special ventilation and kept away from flames or electrical ignition sources. Carcasses of animals euthanized with ether should be stored in explosion proof well-ventilated areas and not incinerated until the ether is volatilized. Other inhalation anesthetics, such as halothane, methoxyflurane and nitrous oxide, although not without some degree of toxicity in an occupational setting, are less hazardous when used with proper precautions and a waste gas scavenging system. Methoxyflurane is the most toxic of these inhalation agents to humans, and safe practices should be closely scrutinized by the IACUC.
Another class of hazardous chemical routinely encountered in the laboratory environment is aldehydes. Specific OSHA guidelines are available for handling aldehydes and other chemicals. Material Safety Data Sheets, which provide useful information on specific hazardous chemicals, must be accessible on site for each hazardous agent present.