Using human tears in an experiment

Using human tears in an experiment: Can human tears be used in an experiment in a classroom? The experiment involves collecting the tears on filter paper after exposing the students to onions to make them cry?

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Publication Date: 22 December 2014
Asked By: Anonymous
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Answer by labsupport on question Using human tears in an experiment

It is not recommended to use human blood or body fluids in activities in school science laboratories. In fact, most schools in government jurisdictions prohibit the use of fresh human tissues or body fluids.

Human tears, along with other body fluids, have the potential to transmit infectious diseases. A recent study confirmed that tears can transmit the hepatitis B virus (HBV).[i]  A Physical Containment level 2 (PC2) laboratory is required to work with human blood and body fluids. [ii] 

Generally, school science laboratories are classified as Physical Containment level 1 (PC1) if they conform to the requirements specified in Section 5 of AS/NZS 2243.3:2010 Safety in Laboratories – Microbiological safety and containment.  If they conform to these requirements, then they are only suitable for work with microorganisms where the hazard levels are low, and where laboratory or facility personnel can be adequately protected by standard laboratory practice.[iii] Microorganisms that are classified as Risk Group 1 are the only ones that should be used in PC1 laboratories. Higher levels of Physical Containment are required for handling fresh human tissues or body fluids and microorganisms of Risk Groups 2–4[iv].

[i] Komatsu, H., Inui, A., Sogo, T., Tateno, A., Shimokawa, R., Fujisawa, T. (2012). Tears from children with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection are infectious vehicles of HBV transmission: experimental transmission of HBV by tears, using mice with chimeric human livers. J Infect Dis. 2012 Aug 15; 206(4):478-85. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jis293. Epub 2012 Apr 16.

[ii] CCH 2011. Physical Containment Level 1 laboratories 35–190 (accessed April 2014)

[iii] University of Sydney. 2013. Biological Safety – Microbiology  (accessed July 2014)

[iv] Australian Standards AS NZS 2243.3-2010. Safety in Laboratories – Microbiological safety and containment

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