To date, there are no regulations or benchmarks specifically for microwave devices in the laboratory. Microwave staining techniques introduce unique safety considerations that are not usually encountered by technicians using traditional laboratory heating devices. Therefore, it is essential that microwave ovens be operated in a manner that promotes safety and protects laboratory personnel.
While microwave use in the laboratory is considered to be relatively safe, the following safety precautions should be taken to prevent high doses of exposure to microwaves and personal injury:
- Periodically inspect and clean door seals and hinges.
- Use a microwave leakage detector to check for microwave leakage from the door seals on a regular basis.
- Always handle containers with potholders or thermal mitts.
- Never operate the microwave without a minimum volume of microwave-absorbing material inside the container.
- Never heat food in a microwave oven used for laboratory procedures.
Although heating staining solutions in the microwave accelerates the staining process, the fundamental chemistry of the stain is not altered. Histotechs are reminded that any solutions or reagents that are unsafe to heat by conventional methods are likely to be more dangerous when heated in the microwave.