Our team took safety for the environment, ourselves, and others very seriously. According to the World Health Organization's standards, our lab space is Biosafety Level 2 certified, which covers laboratories that work with agents associated with human diseases but pose a moderate health hazard. Because this is a BSL 2 lab, lab members made sure to: wear PPE (including lab coats, gloves, and safety goggles) at all times, perform all procedures that could cause infection from splashes in a biological safety cabinet, have an autoclave available for proper disposals, and have a sink and eyewash station readily available. In addition, when working in the lab we followed standard lab safety practices carefully, such as disinfecting the lab space, following safety procedures for chemicals, staying neat and organized in our lab space, sterilizing instruments with isopropanol, and not having any foods or drinks in the lab, to avoid injuries and contamination.
Risk Reduction Methods
The laboratory team has received training through JCVI (J Craig Venter Institute), where all of our lab work was conducted, which included online training through the program Safety Skills. The training included general laboratory safety, responses to small spills, laboratory chemical waste management, safety data sheets, biological hazards, universal waste management, fire safety, chemical hygiene plans, blood-borne pathogens, autoclave safety, and the globally harmonized system. Lab members were also given a tour by the JCVI Safety Advisor who showed them where the biohazard warning signs, eyewash station, and proper disposal containers were located.
Although we worked with toxic compounds, we remained safe by performing all of our experiments under a fume hood with sterilized conditions, where we could ensure nothing was contaminated, and that lab members would not breathe fumes from the chemicals.
Potential Project Risks
If the project was developed into a product, it would have to be implemented in a closed system as we did use some environmentally toxic compounds that could cause risks to humans and animals if breathed in or ingested. To reduce these risks, our product would have to be used by trained professionals with proper safety equipment.
Also, the byproducts of PAH degradation could potentially be hazardous. To account for this, we created a bioreactor which could be used to simulate environmental conditions in a closed environment.
Safety Problems When Sending DNA Parts to Registry
Because our DNA does not code for anything hazardous, we did not encounter any safety issues when sending our DNA to the Registry.