Carcinogens, Mutagens and Teratogens


Carcinogenic substances are associated with causing or promoting cancer in humans and animals.

MSDS sheets will list if a substance is a carcinogen or suspected carcinogenic agent. In addition, newer containers will indicate such risks.

Common carcinogens include benzene, vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, dioxane, and acrylamide.


Mutagens are substances that change the genetic information of an organism, usually by changing DNA. Mutagens are usually also carcinogens as mutations often cause cancer.

Common mutagens include ethidium bromide, formaldehyde, dioxane, and nicotine.


Teratogens are substances that cause harm to the fetus or embryo during pregnancy, causing birth defects while the mother shows no signs of toxicity.

Common teratogens include ethanol, mercury compounds, lead compounds, phenol, carbon disulfide, toluene and xylene.

It should be noted that carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic effects can and do occur and much lower exposure levels than those required to exhibit toxic effects.

For all toxic, mutagenic, teratogenic, and carcinogenic compounds, the best way to keep safe is to minimize exposure by utilizing engineering controls such as fume hoods, utilizing PPE properly, use and have out only the minimum amount necessary and label the hazards clearly on containers to warn other users to take precautions.


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