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Animals & Hazardous Materials

Any research or instructional use of hazardous materials in live animals requires the submission of an Animal Use Protocol to the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) UPPS 02.02.05. The Protocol must be fully approved before any researcher may acquire, house, or use animals.

With the increasing prevalence of animal testing, there comes a greater need to protect researchers. Consider both the direct hazards associated with research animals and the hazardous metabolic byproducts produced by research animals.

Animal and Toxic Chemicals

Animal research or testing with toxic chemicals (including known or suspected carcinogens) may produce aerosols, dusts, or metabolic byproducts that contain toxicants. The equipment, and surrounding atmosphere may become contaminated.

When working with research animals and toxic chemicals always wear gloves and button your laboratory coat. If aerosol production cannot be controlled, use a respirator. Follow all instructions outlined in the approved Animal Use Protocol for handling these agents.

Animals and Infectious Agents

Personnel performing animal research with infectious agents or working with animals that carry potential zoonoses must utilize isolation procedures. The extent of isolation must be appropriate for the infection risk. Examples of zoonotic diseases that pose a hazard to humans include the following:

  • Brucellosis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Shigellosis
  • Pasteurellosis
  • Tularemia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Ringworm
  • Herpes B-virus
  • Rabies
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Q Fever

Conduct work with infectious agents according to good laboratory procedures and containment practices. For information on proper disposal methods, refer to the Biological Safety chapter in this manual.

Animals and Recombinant Genetic Materials

Animal research with recombinant DNA (rDNA) must be conducted in accordance with NIH guidelines. Because containment and disposition is a critical concern, all experiments involving rDNA or genetically altered animals (including recombinants, transgenics, and mosaics) must receive approval by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).  

Animals and Radioactive Materials

At Texas State University Radiation Safety Officer must approve the use of radioactive materials in animals. Permits to use radioisotopes must be acquired through EHSRM. 

Mechanical Injury Hazards

Mechanical injury is the most common hazard associated with animal research. Animals are capable of inflicting extensive injury to humans. Most research animals can bite or scratch. Livestock, large animals, and primates can bite, batter, or crush. Because bites and scratches easily spread disease and infection, researchers must take special care when working with animals.

Animal Allergies

Researchers who work with animals may develop allergic reactions, including rhinitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, and dermatitis. Symptoms of animal allergy may include nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, hives, and eczema.

Rabbits and rodents are the most common research animals that cause severe allergic reactions. Animal dander, fur, bedding, urine, saliva, and tissues are the primary sources of allergic antigens. Mold spores and proteins in animal feed may also act as antigens.

To reduce exposure to animal allergens, minimize the generation of aerosols and dust and wear protective equipment. Take special care to wear respiratory protection and gloves when feeding animals, handling animals, changing bedding, or cleaning cages.

Indirect Animal Hazards

Indirect hazards occur when research animals are intentionally exposed to biological agents, chemicals, and radioactive materials. Because animal bedding, equipment, waste products, and surrounding atmosphere may become contaminated, these items can be hazardous. To protect personnel, manage all animal products and areas according to specific procedures approved by the appropriate oversight committee.

See the Agriculture Safety chapter for more information pertaining to the safe handling of livestock.


May 2011
Reviewed November 2014