DMSO? DM SO what.
August 21, 2012 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Best gloves for incidental DMSO exposure?

In my new(ish) work, we got a new (for this place) chemical in, in DMSO solution. Reading the MSDS I got with the solution, I read the gloves that should be worn for DMSO are butyl OR nitrile. I worked with this chemical in another lab, and we always wore nitrile gloves (not even double-gloved!), but my safety manager is saying butyl.

From what I understand, butyl gloves are recommended for extended contact - as DMSO can eat through nitrile in about five minutes - but what we're working with will be 10uL of the chemical, 2uL at a time, each day it's used, and it will only be used for 4 days out of the entire year.

I'd like to bring something to the table besides butyl gloves for two reasons:
1) their bulk - I'm worried using butyl gloves to hold 0.2uL tubes will cause more, not fewer accidents and "spills" (but I've never used butyl gloves and a micropipette before, so I'm not sure).
2) their cost - outfitting the lab with the proper quantity of butyl gloves would take up an unreasonable proportion of our year's budget, considering how often we will use the chemical.

I am going to suggest double-nitrile gloving it, (some combinations of 4 and/or 8mils) but does anyone have anything else that they use?
New gloves brands come out and I'm never sure whether the "X-TRA!" means extra protection or extra comfort....

Does anyone use butyl gloves for merely incidental DMSO exposure? Does anyone use nitrile gloves for heavy DMSO exposure?

Or should I just tell him that since nitrile gloves are allowed in the MSDS he needs to get over it (well, say it through my lab assistant, who will be more diplomatic)?

(if you're curious, the chemical in the DMSO is SYBR Green I, directly loaded into the DNA samples.... which we got because he was always upset about the EtBr....which I don't like either, honestly, haha)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My take on this is that DMSO exposure isn't per se what you should worry about, but the possibility that the combo could have some kind of synergistic effect--the DMSO messing up your gloves and then facilitating movement of the (nucleic acid-binding, potentially carcinogenic) dye through your tissues. That situation isn't, as far as I know, one for which there are any data, and would make me way more nervous than either DMSO (which is pretty safe stuff) or SYBR Green alone.
posted by pullayup at 10:36 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

What pullayup said. That'd be my primary concern in the situation. According to this chart, Kimberly-Clark nitrile gloves are rated "Good" (but not "Excellent") vs. DMSO, for "incidental exposure only". However, in this chart for Kimberly-Clark nitrile gloves, the gloves are flagged red (not recommended) for DMSO (page 3 of the PDF.) Whenever I encounter conflicting guidelines, I err on the side of caution.

We're not in a lab (we're copier guys), but we work with some pretty nasty chemicals for cleaning and restoring rubber, teflon, urethane, and silicone rollers. We used to wear nitrile for everything, until one job I felt my gloves getting a little gummy but carried on, and then spent the next three days sick. Probably absorbed some Fedron through the skin. I came out okay, but count myself lucky. We now have butyl gloves too (I get ours from Grainger), that we use for the nastier stuff. They are definitely not "one size fits all", you want to order the correct size for each person. If you do, they're actually not too clunky. Not as sleek as nitrile, sure, but you're not wearing oven mitts either.

And yes, the butyl gloves are like 25x the cost of nitrile gloves, but we inspect ours after each use, and if they show no signs of degradation, puncture, or abrasion, we wash and reuse them. (Before the next use, we fill the glove with water, squeeze it, and check for leaks to make sure it's not punctured anywhere.) Not sure if this is permitted in a lab setting, but it works for us.
posted by xedrik at 10:52 PM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, DMSO isn't inherently scary - it's that DMSO is a gorgeous carrier and crosses skin beautifully. So if it rots your gloves whatever's in it is going to cruise right into your bloodstream. SYBR Green isn't supposed to be as mutagenic as EtBr, but I don't trust anything that stains DNA, you know?

Waaaay back in the 1990s I used to use DMSO pretty regularly for tissue culture, and it certainly ate latex gloves. Nitrile did better but you still had to change them a lot.
posted by gingerest at 10:59 PM on August 21, 2012

I know what DMSO does, and have read the mutagenic and cytotoxic reports available on SYBR Green.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 11:05 PM on August 21, 2012

Gingerest - you say "it certainly ate through latex gloves"... Does this mean you were able to observe this? I used DMSO for tissue culture as well, with latex gloves as well, and never actually noticed any trouble with my gloves - I thought the "eating through gloves" was something that wasn't observed....

I can't remember exactly how much DMSO I used for the tissue culture, but I recall using a pyrex pipet, so it was much, much more than what I would be using in this lab.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 11:14 PM on August 21, 2012

(The question is on incidental use of DMSO, not regular use of DMSO or other hazardous chemicals)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 11:15 PM on August 21, 2012

Well, maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, but that thing where latex gets sort of gummy or just spontaneously pops a hole (you know, the way the gloves get when they've been in the storeroom too long) seems to me to be associated with those large volumes of DMSO - and, yes, I'm remembering using the stuff milliters at a time, as a cryoprotectant, the same way we'd use glycerol. I also have some memory - this could be wrong - that we used it in making the resins for tissue embedding for EM, and that this was a problem because there was a possibility of sensitizing oneself to common plastic components.
posted by gingerest at 12:09 AM on August 22, 2012

Double gloving is going to make you way way clumsier than just wearing the butyl gloves (which felt just like nitrile ones last time I used them). It's really super extra annoying so getting any kind of compliance isn't likely either. I don't think that's a good option.

FWIW the lab I work in uses latex or nitrile gloves for tissue culture including using DMSO in amounts of up to 5 mLs. But then they also wear their latex gloves for acrylamide work even though I've told everyone they're better off removing gloves all together if they're going to do that, so take that park with a grain of salt. I have definitely seen DMSO reduce the thickness and integrity of the latex gloves (they get all sticky and gritty and thin) but never seen that with nitrile. I don't bathe my hands in DMSO and change gloves regularly so it was definitely incidental use only, I don't know what extended contact would be like.

When I worked in a different, much more safety conscious and detail oriented lab, we used nitrile for all the Syber green work without issue. The company-wide health and safety officer was my bench mate and the (actually-enforced) laws laid down huge fines for any kind of non-compliance so I trust that they were correct.

So I think you should read up about the different specifications of different nitrile gloves from their manufacturers and buy whatever ones fit the specifications you require (incidental DMSO work sounds fine to me, Syber green is too expensive to be throwing around anyway). Then send the documentation to your safety guy and get on with your work. He's not going to care about arguments from you or the internet but it's much more difficult to argue with the proper documentation. If he comes back with other, better documentation showing you're wrong and you need butyl gloves then just suck it up and buy them.
posted by shelleycat at 12:20 AM on August 22, 2012

Oh yeah, as part of your documentation to back up use ofwhatever glove you find add in a SOP or protocol for use of SYBERgreen which involves changing gloves straight after exposure. That's what we do for Trizol use, the pink-tainted gloves stay in the fume hood and new ones get put on as soon as the tubes are safely shut but before anything gets moved anywhere else, meaning that potential exposure to the gloves can only be a matter of minutes at most and the Trizol never leaves the hood except in a closed container (that last part may not be relevant to you, but I'm sure you get what I'm aiming for here).

This will show him you're taking this seriously with the added benefit of actually being good for your safety and health.
posted by shelleycat at 12:25 AM on August 22, 2012

hmmm. I used to use large quantities of DMSO as a chemist (100 mLs+). I have to qualify this by saying that I was not a great chemist but here's what I remember. If I got some on my nitrile gloves, they would get sort of soft and puffy where the DMSO landed. I dealt with that by changing to a new pair of nitrile gloves if it happened. You're pipetting uLs? I agree with others, I would stick with nitrile and have the SOP be an immediate glove change if you get any DMSO on your glove.
posted by k96sc01 at 5:11 AM on August 22, 2012

This is not a question for the internet, your company should have either a lab safety professional in house or contract with one to generate plans for unfamiliar hazards with you in your lab. You're local research university may be happy to let you use their staff on contract for a price that is reasonable for you and gold for them. If you are that person and are asking the internet, then I guess all we can really do is suggest either more formal training or another career.

More importantly though, I want to address this,
"2) their cost - outfitting the lab with the proper quantity of butyl gloves would take up an unreasonable proportion of our year's budget, considering how often we will use the chemical."
SAFETY IS SOMETHING THAT COSTS MONEY AND IS ALWAYS WORTH IT. PERIOD. If you can't afford to do it safely you can't afford to do it. This point is non-negotiable in the civilized world, and unquestioned in companies worth working for. From my experience working with SYBR Green, I really doubt that double gloving with butyl rubber is in any way necessary, but if it were then I hope you would not hesitate to either pay for it or not do the work. Because those would be the options.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:57 AM on August 22, 2012

I work in a lab in a research hospital. I am on the safety committee. I work with both DMSO and SYBRgreen for RT-PCR and running gels. I wear nitrile gloves.

You are working with 10 µl at a time, 2 µl per day max? Don't worry. Use proper safety precautions (including glove changes if you suspect or are certain that you have been exposed) and go on with your work. Unless you are extraordinarily clumsy, pregnant, or working with lots and lots of the stuff, in my professional opinion you are not going to have any unreasonable exposure issues.

If you are handling DMSO-containing gels stained with SYBRgreen, worry a bit more - in that case it might be worth using the butyl gloves - but if all you are doing is pipetting from stock A into tube B, you are fine with nitrile.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:45 AM on August 22, 2012

I'm usually a "by the book/best practices" person, but I handle pipetting Sybr green without gloves if using my own set of pipettes. Latex gloves if using communal. When handling the gels, latex is just fine.

The amounts of DMSO are so small it's going to be heavily diluted. Sybr is super safe. Heck, ethidium is "scary" but really? It too big and charged to go past the top layer of your skin cells.

Just get a box of nitriles in the common sizes from stores or something. They're like, $10 a box, if that.
posted by porpoise at 11:43 AM on August 22, 2012

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