Health risks

Guidelines for conducting and reporting animal studies often focus on items related to scientific validity and publication success. The PREPARE guidelines aim, in addition, to address the needs of personnel who, through their employment or association with the research facility may be directly or indirectly affected by the study. Such an aim is in keeping with the principles embodied in a Culture of Care. Some of these people may play peripheral roles in the animal studies themselves, but may be significantly affected by them, physically or psychologically.

This group includes, but is not limited to:

  • People engaged in research animal capture, transport and breeding
  • Animal carers and technologists
  • Security personnel
  • Administrative personnel with occasional access to the animal facility
  • Students
  • Sales representatives and those delivering supplies or equipment
  • Craftsmen carrying out facility repairs
  • Other visitors, including inspectors and journalists
  • Cleaning staff
  • Waste disposal personnel
  • Those who rehome research animals.

Associates of these may also be at risk in studies involving health hazards which can be carried ex situ. These hazards include allergens, pathogens, and biological and chemical toxins.

To make matters worse, these people can be exposed to additional unforeseen risk. For example, they may:

  • enter the facility outside normal working hours, when advice on hazards may not be readily available
  • not understand messages left in the facility, especially if scientific jargon is used. Special consideration should be paid to employees with other native languages.
  • have little knowledge of animal research, scientific method and the need for controlled experiments
  • have no intrinsic concern of potential health hazards unless these are pointed out to them. Ironically, the cleaner and tidier an animal facility appears to be, the less likely they are to be fearful of such hazards.
  • have not been health-screened before entering the facility. Those predisposed for allergy or asthma are particularly at risk when working with animals.
  • be planning a family. This is important, since early embryonic development and spermatogenesis are known to be at risk upon exposure to ionising radiation and chemicals, including volatile anaesthetics.

The potential health hazards themselves are discussed here.

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