ANATOMY STUDENTS – This informational sheet is
designed to alert you to the possible hazards of anatomy dissections and to
provide you with some guidance on how to protect yourself.
BEFORE YOU START – If you are pregnant or plan to become
pregnant, please notify the physician before you enter the laboratory.
EMBALMING CHEMICALS – A number of chemicals are used in
various proportions to preserve cadavers.
The main chemicals are typically: formaldehyde, phenol, methanol, and
glycerin. These chemicals may be
hazardous if they get into your body, through inhalation, ingestion, injection
or absorption. A great deal of effort has gone into reducing or eliminating any
possible hazardous exposure while performing dissections. The embalming method, the laboratory
ventilation, the personal protective equipment you are instructed to wear, and
your training in proper dissection practices are all designed to help minimize
FORMALDEHYDE – Formaldehyde is a carcinogen
classified as toxic, corrosive, and sensitizing chemical. It is part of the embalming solution at a
3.0% concentration. In addition to preserving tissue for long periods of time
it also acts to inactivate many microorganisms that may reside in the tissue.
It has a pungent odor and the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for formaldehyde
is 0.75 parts per million (ppm).
Airborne concentrations of formaldehyde above 0.1ppm can cause irritation
of the respiratory tract. Higher
concentrations can be immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). Primary
routes of exposure include; inhalation, skin and/or eye contact. Skin contact
with formaldehyde can result in various skin reactions, including
PHENOL – Phenol is classified as a toxic and
corrosive chemical. It is used in the embalming solution at a 26.0%
concentration. It can cause irritations
and burns and can have systemic toxicity.
It has a characteristic sweet acrid, disinfectant, odor that you most
likely detect when you enter anatomy class.
The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for phenol is 5 parts per million
(ppm). Primary routes of exposure include; inhalation, skin absorption,
ingestions and/or eye contact.
METHANOL – Methanol is classified as a
flammable and toxic liquid. It is used in embalming solutions at 28.0%. Contact
with this chemical can result in irritation to the skin, eyes, and upper
respiratory system. It has a
characteristic pungent odor. The PEL is 200 ppm. Primary routes of exposure
include; inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion and/or eye contact.
GLYCERIN – Glycerin is not a classified
chemical. It is used in the embalming solution at 11.1%. This chemical is an
irritant to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. It is a colorless, odorless liquid. The PEL
for this chemical is 5mg/m3. Primary routes of exposure include;
inhalation, skin and/or eye contact.
The chemicals are mixed with
water at a ratio of one part embalming fluid to one parts water. For
further information on the chemicals used for embalming, please go online at
the EH&S website or speak with the Laboratory Supervisor to obtain copies
for all of the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) used in the process. The SDS is an
informational sheet that contains more in-depth information about the chemicals
used. Specifically, information about how to safely work with the chemicals and
what symptoms to look for when dealing with possible exposure.
INFECTIOUS AGENTS – Infectious agents are
microorganisms that may cause disease in humans or animals. Much like chemicals, you can be exposed to
infectious agents by inhalation, ingestion, injection or absorption. Human
tissues may contain infectious agents; however, the embalming solutions used on
the cadavers not only preserve the tissue but also destroy many infectious
agents. In addition, the cadavers are
screened and therefore are of low risk.
To minimize the risk of exposure to infectious agents, make sure that
the tissues you are working with have been properly preserved. Wear nitrile gloves and protective clothing
such as a plastic apron or lab coat.
Wash hands thoroughly after working with tissues or if you suspect that
you may have been exposed. Eating or drinking is NOT ALLOWED in work areas
where tissues or chemicals are present.
Report all accidents to the course director.
ERGONOMICS – Ergonomics is the study of the
physical relationship between the individual and their work. This relationship may be awkward or strained
and must be adjusted to prevent discomfort.
Often your awareness of body tension is sufficient to remind you to
adjust to a more comfortable position.
When performing dissections, get close to the area where you are
working, bend at the knees if necessary, avoid excessive repetitive motions,
avoid extensive fixed positions, and take regular breaks to relax strained
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
is anything that will reduce or eliminate the possibility of exposure to
hazardous materials. Your clothing, lab
coat, apron, nitrile gloves, safety glasses, and respirators are all examples
of possible protective equipment. Your typical attire for dissections should be
as follows: surgical scrubs, apron, nitrile gloves, safety glasses, and
surgical mask. If you wear contacts, please make sure that they are cleaned
daily to prevent hardening due to chemical exposure. Vapor proof goggles are
available upon request. Please note that
latex gloves do not provide the same level of protection as nitrile gloves for
the embalming chemicals used. Do not
re-use gloves. Change them after 15
minutes of continuous use. Double-gloving
prolongs use time.
PERSONAL HYGIENE – After you complete your work in the
anatomy class, remove PPE such as gloves, apron, mask and safety glasses and
wash thoroughly with mild soap and water.
Washing should be careful and deliberate, ensuring thorough cleaning of
any possible exposed skin. If you
suspect that you have been exposed during the dissections, stop what you are
doing, remove protective equipment and wash carefully as above.
WASTE DISPOSAL – All disposable PPE must be disposed
as medical waste. Medical waste
containers are located in each anatomy laboratory. Please remove gloves and disposable aprons
and place these items in the medical waste containers before you leave the
laboratory. This equipment must not be worn in the hallways. Please do not push
down the waste in the bio hazard bins. If the waste is approaching the top,
just close it up and start a new bin. The human tissue that becomes waste is
collected in a red container at the end of the dissecting table during the
semester and disposed at the end of the semester with the cadaver.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH and SAFETY – The College is committed to
maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone who works and lives
within its facilities. Environmental
Health and Safety assists the College in this endeavor by monitoring the use,
storage, and disposal of hazardous materials and by helping to educate staff,
faculty, and students about the proper handling of these materials and about
the actions to be taken in the event of an accident.
students at the College and future health care professionals, you should be
concerned with the quality and safety of the environment in which you work and
live. We have included a test with this
material as a means of helping you to learn more about the exposure risks
associated with dissection and the anatomy laboratories. Please take a few minutes to complete this
test and return it to the Anatomy Laboratory Supervisor. If you have any questions about specific
safety procedures regarding dissections, please address them to your laboratory