Team:Gaston Day School/Safety



Home Team Official Team Profile Project Parts Submitted to the Registry Notebook Safety Attributions

Our Safety Experiments are included in our "Notebook" Section of the website

1. Would the materials used in your project and / or your final product pose:

A. Risks to the safety and health of team members or others in the lab
As there is with any science experiment, there are risks involved with our project. Our team works with bleach which can cause irritation and a burning sensation if improperly exposed through inhalation, ingestion, or prolonged exposure to skin. Even so, we take care and pride to prevent any issues. Also, our team works with E. coli K12. It is a version of E. coli that is widely studied and found to be very safe and practical for research. In fact, it is one of the most-studied bacteria of all time. E. coli K12 has no known survival mechanisms in the environment and has a very, very low risk causing threats to organisms. In fact is often used in high school science classes. Even with antibiotic resistance, the amount of harm caused to most organisms would be minimal. The only real danger would be if a bacterium was able to conjugate with another type of bacteria that was more harmful and was able to transfer its resistances. The chances of this happening are small due to the fact that the bacterium is held in a lab that most high school students do not enter (separate room that remains locked) and because proper safety precautions are followed relative to our biosafety level when inside this lab, including proper safety equipment and diligent handwashing.
B. Risks to the safety and health of the general public if released by design or accident?
There are not many reasonable threats to the safety and health of the public if the project were to be released. This is mainly because we are in the biosafety level (BSL) 1 which limits what materials we can use. In saying this, bleach can be purchased by almost anyone at their local supermarket or grocery store. Therefore, the risk is no different than someone buying the bleach and using it as a house hold chemical. Also, E. coli K12 can be purchased by the public. Therefore, it is once again low risk. However, some other teams’ projects include more hazardous materials that can not be purchased by the public thus causing a greater security risk than those associated with BSL 1. As long as proper regulations are followed specific to their safety level, there is no risk. For the general public, the only way the bacterium may cause harm is through the spread of antibiotic resistance to chloramphenacol. The reason for this particular drug resistance is because this is what our team uses when doing selective resistance to get the final product. It only becomes risky when this resistance is spread to more harmful bacteria.
C. Risks to environmental quality if released by design or accident?
There are no unreasonable, adverse effects associated with bleach being introduced into the environment. Our iGem team is studying these effects in case users do not follow the proper directions associated with our machine. E. coli K12 has no known way of surviving in the environment and can not produce spores. It is also not able to colonize the gut of an organism which makes it a very low environmental threat.
D. Risks to the security through malicious misuse by individuals, groups or states?
Our iGem team is studying the security threats through malicious misuse of the machine by others. The malicious misuse could be created by almost anyone since they have access to the same materials. For example, malicious misuse of the bleach in the machine is identical the threat created by the misuse of household bleach since the two are the same. Even so, the team is still testing side effects from individuals not following the directions. For instance, after using the bleach from our machine, the individual is supposed to dilute the bleach before disposing of it. Our team is testing the hypothetical situations that arise from the misuse of directions and analyzing the effects.
Specifically, are any of your parts or devices in your project associated (or known to cause): pathogenicity, infectivity, or toxicity? Threats to environmental quality? Security concerns?

2. If yes, explain how you addressed these issues in project design and while conducting laboratory work

From our machine, there are no real environmental threats. Again, this arises from being in the BSL 1 and from the public having access to the same materials we use. Therefore, they are all relatively stable and safe. There is no real toxicity other than bleach, but it can be purchased at many public stores and locations around the world and is only harmful from intentional misuse (ex. ingesting very large quantities, inhaling large amounts). Our machine itself is not pathogenic but if it is able to conjugate with other possibly pathogenic bacteria, then it may cause some degree of harm. If the bacterium is isolated then this will not happen and maybe used safely.

3. Under what biosafety provisions will / do you operate?

Our iGem laboratory at Gaston Day School operates under the Biosafety Level 1. Gaston Day School’s iGem team has biosafety level (BSL) 1 restrictions. BSL 1 usually is present in most high school laboratories. Therefore, there are many restrictions and rules present that limit the amount of harmful materials in the lab. Some regulations include: a sink must be present in the lab, controlled access (locked doors), no eating or drinking in lab area, decontamination of surfaces after lab work, and a lab supervisor. However, most colleges and other iGem teams have a higher BSL which allows for them to possess more hazardous materials, and thus more safety regulations, and more security concerns to address.
A. Does your institution have its own biosafety rules and if so what are they?
At Gaston Day School we do not have a set of our own biosafety rules. In saying this, we do follow all of the regulations and rules from BSL 1 and operate under the supervision of our advisor, Ms. Anne Byford, who has much knowledge in the biological field.
B. Does your institution have in Institutional Biosafety Committee or equivalent group? If yes, have you discussed your project with them? Describe any concerns or changes that were made based on this review.
All of our iGem projects at Gaston Day School are approved by the Head of the School, Dr. Richard Rankin, the Head of Middle and Upper School, Mr. Tim Tinnesz, and lastly the Board of Directors to ensure the safety of our team and school.
C. Will / did you receive any biosafety and / or lab training before beginning your project? If so, describe this training.
Our team has received biosafety and lab training from our advisor, Ms. Anne Byford. She has also supervised and gone through the specific methods and processes we use to isolate, cut, ligate, and view the DNA used to create our bacterium. This also includes proper lab etiquette and how to use equipment such as a microcentrifuge, pipettes, and gel electrophoresis boxes.
D. Does your country have national biosafety regulations or guidelines? If so, provide a link to them online if possible.
Yes, the United States of America’s biosafety regulations are controlled by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The link is below.

4. OPTIONAL QUESTION: Do you have any other ideas on how to deal with safety or security issues that could be useful for future iGem competitions? How could parts, devices and systems be made even safer through biosafety engineering?

Safety is the most important part of the competition. Safety must be stressed upon and needs to be a priority in all labs. To help with this, each team / advisor should have to fill out a survey / worksheet that measures the safety in their lab and also makes sure that they are staying within the regulations of their BSL. Also, photos should be submitted of the lab to show that they have the proper safety regulation and requirements.






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