Stanford University

Substitution Opportunities

There are many opportunities for laboratories to minimize chemical waste by substituting chemical products. Consider incorporating the practices below into your research whenever possible. The environment will benefit and your laboratory will, too.

Cleaning, sterilizing, and rinsing substitution opportunities

Consider the following substitutions for cleaning, sterilizing, and rinsing agents:

  • For cleaning lab glass, use “No-Chromix,” enzymatic cleaners, detergents, and similar items instead of chromerge (sulfuric acid-sodium dichromate).
  • For histology labs, use alcohol fixative, which is less toxic, instead of formaldehyde or citric acid-based preparatory chemicals.
  • For sterilizing equipment, use quaternary amine detergents instead of isopropyl alcohol, particularly in medical studies.
  • For dehydrating and rinsing processes, use ethanol instead of methanol.

Thermometer substitution opportunities

For thermometer substitution, use alcohol/glycol instead of mercury.

Academic and teaching substitution opportunities

For academic substitutions, use nonhazardous chemicals in chemistry teaching laboratories. For example:

  • potassium sodium tartarate in density studies
  • calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate, sodium carbonate, potassium chloride, potassium iodate, and sodium oxalate in “unknown” studies, calorimetric studies, molal volume studies, synthesis studies, or kinetic measurement studies

Radioactive material substitution opportunities

Consider the following substitutions for radioactive material:

  • Use LLR for biodegradable scintillation cocktails.
  • In sequencing studies, use vendor-proprietary nonradioactive scintillation proximity assays instead of :-32 or S-35.
  • In DNA labeling, southern blot analysis, etc., substitute vendor-proprietary electrochemiluminescence (ECL) materials for P-32 and S-35. Use shorter half-life radioisotopes, such as P-33 for P-32 (in orthophosphate studies), P-33 or P-32 instead of S-35 (in nucleotide and deoxynucleotide studies), and use I-131 instead of I-125 (in thyroid research).
  • Use O-18 and deuterium plus mass spectrometry instead of O-19 and tritium.

Other substitution opportunities

  • Use SYBR Safe DNA gel stain instead of ethidium bromide (a known mutagen).
  • In Beer’s Law studies, use iron-salicylic complex instead of copper-ammonia complex.
  • In Swern oxidation of alcohols, use organic oxidants instead of chromium (IV) oxidants-oxalyl chloride/dimethyl sulfoxide.
  • Use perchloryl fluoride – F-TEDA-B54 (1-chloromethyl-4-fluoro- 1,4 diazonia [2,2,2] bicyclotane) instead of fluoride and fluorinating reagents.
  • For purging microtubing in optic ganglia physiology studies, use compressed pure oxygen gas instead of compressed CFC gases.
  • In Kjeldahl analyses, use copper sulfate catalysts instead of mercury sulfate or selenium metal catalysts.
  • For liquid-liquid extraction or chromatography, use the following substitutes instead of organic solvents:
    • supercritical carbon dioxide for organic solvents in high-performance chromatography
    • toluene for benzene (less toxic)
    • methyl tert-butyl ether for diethyl ether (does not form explosive peroxides)

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