I use RNase AWAY in the lab. I would like to know how dangerous this chemical is for health. For example, when I remove my gloves my hands smell because of the RNAse AWAY

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    $\begingroup$ "Also, when i removed my gloves my hands smell because of the RNase AWAY." - so? $\endgroup$ – TanMath Aug 24 '15 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @TanMath. Everyone in a lab is entitled to be provided with the equipment and take the necessary precautions to protect their health or address concerns related to their health. If the OP has concerns about the nature of RNase Away in regards to their health, then the smart thing for them to do is ask the questions and get the information that they need to evaluate the risk that they are putting themselves under. That being said, it would likely be better to raise the concern with her lab head or a university safety officer than on a forum. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 25 '15 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ Have you read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for the product? In general RNAse-Away (or whatever brand specific variant) is just considered an irritant. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Aug 26 '15 at 5:39

RNase AWAY is marked for Category II skin corrosion/irritation and Category II eye irritation/serious eye damage. Recommendations by the MSDS followed by definitions as follows:

Skin contact Wash off immediately with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Remove and wash contaminated clothing before re-use. Immediate medical attention is required.

Eye contact Rinse immediately with plenty of water, also under the eyelids, for at least 15 minutes. Immediate medical attention is required.



More information is included in the MSDS provided.

As for any smell, RNase away is reported to be a proprietary alkali hydroxide solution, so without any additional information it's difficult to tell.

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    $\begingroup$ You mean I wasn't supposed to be spraying my hands before I gloved? Oops.... $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 24 '15 at 22:36

If you are doing RNA preps, there isn't much of a way around it. RNase are everywhere and the only way not the degrade your sample is to use proper technique, barrier protection such as nitrile gloves, certified RNase free containers (macrophage tubes, pipet tips, etc.), and saturate your work surface and instruments with RNAse away.

If you really have a concern and it is available to you, a BSL-2 tissue culture hood with laminar air flow, that you get permission to use for the purpose of an RNA prep, is an option for an added level of safety. You still have to prepare your work surface with it, but the laminar air flow will keep any fumes away from you. A regular fume hood would probably be enough of a precaution, again if you are concerned, and it is less likely that anyone would take issue to you working in it if the BSL-2 hood is set aside for the exclusive use of tissue culture work.

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    $\begingroup$ Using something like RNAse Away is not always necessary, we don't use it at all. Working entirely with disposable containers or containers that were treated with DEPC or heated up high enough, as well as starting with RNAse free water and chemicals is generally sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Aug 25 '15 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist - Who, we? You talk like Louis the Eleventh. user17471 does use RNAse AWAY. $\endgroup$ – Nicolas Barbulesco Aug 25 '15 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ That is fine if you are working in an area that is set aside specifically for RNA work and is isolated so that contamination is limited, and that area was likely treated in some way to begin with to destroy all biological contaminants. But if you are working on your day-to-day bench, you need to treat the work surfaces with something that will get rid of the enzymes and Ethanol will not cut it. I guess you could bleach everything, but bleach is far more corrosive and toxic that RNase Away. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 25 '15 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ And it is up to your labs protocol anyway. If your lab has decided that RNase Away is not a part of your protocol and you have engineering controls in place that can mitigate contamination, then that is great. Most labs don't and user17471's lab protocol is to prep with RNAse away, so using a fume hood or BSL-2 cabinet is about the only alternative available to them to protect their health if they are concerned. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 25 '15 at 15:46

You should, in general read the Material Safety Data Sheet for whatever chemical you are using. This is always provided by the vendor.

For RNAse-AWAY (Sigma-Aldrich):

Gloves should be worn when handling this product. RNase Decontamination Reagent is alkaline in nature and will cause irritation if prolonged contact with the skin is allowed. In case of contact with eyes, immediately flush with water for fifteen minutes and contact a physician. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Give plenty of water and contact a physician immediately.

According to the MSDS:

Not a hazardous substance or mixture according to Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008. This substance is not classified as dangerous according to Directive 67/548/EEC.

First Aid measures as per the MSDS.

If inhaled
If breathed in, move person into fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration.

In case of skin contact
Wash off with soap and plenty of water.

In case of eye contact
Flush eyes with water as a precaution.

If swallowed
Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Rinse mouth with water.

  • $\begingroup$ I would however say that even if the MSDS says the chemical is not hazardous, a person should make the risk assessment themselves and decide how comfortable they feel working with the substance under certain conditions. Take Ethidium Bromide. While it is a known mutagen that intercalates DNA, if you read the MSDS, it is only dangerous if inhaled of if it comes in contact on an area of the skin that is broken, (cuts, cracks, etc.). Yet most people treat it like the plaque, and while it is irrational and not supported by the known science, they should have the prerogative to protect their... $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 28 '15 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ ... health how they see fit. And I am not saying your answer isn't implying that, I am only adding that even if the MSDS says its probably safe, it is still up to the person to decide what is best for them. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 28 '15 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR In reality EtBr is not as hazardous as people panic about it. It was used as an antiparasitic drug in cattle. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Aug 28 '15 at 4:48
  • $\begingroup$ I am one of those who is not panicked by EtBr, but in fairness to those who are, we mark out the area where it is used and only use dedicated equipment. I am far more concerned and careful with bleach, having evolved Cl gas after washing a container, that had been washed before with bleach, that was not supposed to contain an acid, but had residue from someone who performed a plasmid prep. $\endgroup$ – AMR Aug 28 '15 at 5:42

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