Ethics of Home Histology


I had heard tales of a histology start-up company beginning in the basement of a house.   He said there were human parts sitting in glass jars embalmed in formalin sitting on shelves and 2 caskets waiting for bodies.  Sounds like an old frankenstein movie to me. This was from a previous employer who also said he stole all of the histology equipment from a closing biotech company.  The caskets were part of a dream of his to become a funeral director.  I didn’t believe any of it at first but he told it so many times it just sank in.  

During my quest to start a new histology company, I thought about starting it in my basement.  A really not well thought out plan but with good intentions and a really small budget.  I discussed this idea with my wife, she said NO.  After tiring her out, she said maybe but only if the town allowed it.  I went to the town hall to hash out the laws.  They said NO and laughed at me.  Decidedly, it was a really bad idea from the start.  All the chemicals and paraffin in my basement, off gassing into the upstairs where My wife, daughter and I live.  

A couple of days ago on histonet, there was a discussion about “freelance Histology” operating out of someone’s house.  They asked about people cutting and staining slides out of your garage or some kind of similar set up. People who are willing to pick up overflow from different companies /labs. 

Some of the responses:

  1. “Cutting is one thing such as like control slides, but staining that’s a whole different thing, you will have chemical waste that needs to be disposed of properly.  You will need appropriate ventilation, etc.   Correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think you could be performing any clinical work, it would have to be research.  Even though you might be only one person I still think you are responsible for all applicable OSHA guidelines”.
  2. “This may certainly not be on the up and up but I have heard about these kinds of operations for years, not sure how they can do it but I know of a lab that did clinical skin bx samples for years and years and I am sure they were not Clia/CAP/or even GLP, I guess since it is Histology all the responsibility lies with the Pathologist reading the slides, I never thought it was very kosher, at least for this one case it is not going on anymore, but it would not surprise me if there were Derm and GI labs all over not really accredited to be doing histology on human samples but they still do”.
  3. “Nothing dangerous about just cutting from home.”
  4. “Think meth lab : (
    But this is happening at a derm lab that operates around the Atlanta area.
    I have begged the vendors to not sell to them.  That would shut them down.”
  5. “It all depends on where you live and what the regulations are.  In rural areas we do not necessarily have these same regs”.
  6. “I don’t think I would want to process or stain, but I think just
    cutting unstained sections would be safe. Maybe for research projects
    or what not.”
  7. My response -” It’s not legal to run a histology business out of your house because of the chemicals and no insurance company would take the responsibility.”

In order to cut and stain paraffin blocks, there has to be a microtome and all the chemicals to stain.  Granted most of them can be purchased from the local hardware store, some cannot.  The Hematoxylin is a known carcinogen that should not be dumped down the drain.  It and the eosin contain glacial acetic acid, it also should not go down the drain. All the chemicals should be separated into flammable cabinets, acid and base cabinets just to be safe.   It’s helpful to have liquid paraffin to re-embed tissue blocks and sometimes need a lot.  It can be a great fire starter.

As far as I’m concerned, it should not be allowed anywhere in residential settings for the safety of all people in the community.  Just my two cents.  

What do you think?  Is this something that should be allowed to happen in your neighborhood? Do you know anyone who is doing this now?

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