Use of Hazardous Agents in Animals

Federal animal welfare regulations, policies and guidance require research institutions to establish and maintain an occupational health and safety program (OHSP) as an essential part of the overall program of animal care and use.  The IACUC at UCI works closely with Environmental Health and Safety to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all research personnel.


  • On a case-by-case basis and after consultation with Environmental Health and Safety Staff, the IACUC may withhold approval for the use of animals until all required safety reviews, approvals and appropriate documentation are complete.
  • Enrollment in the Laboratory Animal Occupational Health Program (LAOHP) is mandatory for all personnel, regardless of whether hazards are identified in the approved IACUC protocol.  Proposed research personnel that do not enroll in (or formally opt out of) the LAOHP will not be added to any approved IACUC protocol and therefore will not be authorized to work with live animals in research.

Identification of Hazards and Required Actions

All IACUC protocol applications and significant modifications submitted for full committee review undergo administrative, veterinary, EH&S and IACUC pre-review prior to the convened meeting. The EH&S Vivarium Biosafety Specialist pre-reviews all submissions to verify that the Lead Researcher has properly identified all hazardous agents proposed for use in animals. If hazardous agents are identified during this review that were not previously described in the protocol, the Lead Researcher will be asked to revise the application accordingly.

Hazards commonly encountered in association with animal research must be identified and described in the IACUC Protocol Application, and typically fall into several broad categories, each with its own requirements for documentation and/or additional review:

  • Anesthetic Gases

    All protocols that utilize gas anesthesia (e.g. isofluorane) must describe how the waste gas will be scavenged.  Chronic exposure to waste anesthesia gases has been shown to be harmful to research personnel.  Methods of scavenging waste anesthetic gases include the use of a fume hood, venting to house HVAC or house vacuum, or use of charcoal canisters.

  • Hazardous Chemicals (e.g., carcinogens, toxins, nanomaterials and investigational new drugs)

    Researchers proposing use of these agents must provide a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailing the safe handling and use of the agent and describing how contaminated materials, including animal carcasses and soiled bedding, will be discarded.  EH&S maintains an extensive library of resources associated with the use of hazardous agents in the laboratory, including a list of pre-approved SOPs for commonly used agents.

  • Biohazards (e.g., infectious agents, human and non-human primate materials, recombinant DNA, viral vectors)

    The Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) has been charged with enforcing regulations and guidelines to protect researchers, the environment and the public at large.

  • Radioactive Substances, Radiation-producing Equipment and Lasers

    Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) review and approval is required for all use of radiation-producing instruments or radioactive substances. Submission of SOPs applicable to safely working with the radiation hazards in animals may be required as part of the IACUC protocol.

    For medical center research, please reference this document from UCIMC EH&S.

Safety Considerations Meeting

When hazards are identified that pose a serious health risk to research personnel and/or vivarium staff, the IACUC and EH&S may require that a Safety Considerations Meeting take place prior to use of the hazardous agent in animals.

  • The Safety Considerations Meeting must be attended by the Lead Researcher and all members of the research team who will be involved in the use of the agent.
  • EH&S staff, ULAR husbandry staff and veterinarians also attend this meeting.
  • One result of the Safety Considerations Meeting is the development of a written Standard Operating Procedure, which must be signed by all attendees.
  • Appropriate hazards signage will also be developed and required and recommended Personal Protective Equipment will be identified.
  • Approval of the IACUC protocol may or may not be contingent upon the completion of this meeting.  For more information, contact EH&S


  • Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Edition (National Research Council, 2011)
  • Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals (National Research Council, 1997)