Ether Use - Anesthesia

Ether Use

Approved November 19, 1998, revised Oct. 17, 2013 (download)

Background: Ether is highly soluble in blood, induces anesthesia or euthanasia slowly, is irritating to the eyes and nose, and poses serious risks because of its flammability and explosive potential.  Furthermore, explosions or fires are possible in places like freezers where animal carcasses are stored following the use of ether for euthanasia. The AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition states that ether is not acceptable for euthanasia. When discovered as part of program and facility reviews conducted by AAALAC, the use of ether is consistently noted as an issue of concern requiring further explanation and justification. The relative safety and advantages of alternatives such as isoflurane or sevoflurane make them preferable to the use of ether in animal facilities and programs.

Policy: Considering the disadvantages and availability of alternatives, ether should not be used for animal anesthesia or euthanasia except when there is a unique and compelling scientific justification to do so. Under such circumstances, in addition to IACUC approved scientific justification, documentation must be provided to the IACUC that the attending veterinarian and Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) staff are satisfied the investigators and their personnel proposing to use ether have the appropriate training and equipment to do so and that appropriate measures will be taken to reduce the hazards associated with its use. Such measures include the following:

  • Use only in an appropriate chemical fume hood.
  • Purchase in the smallest volume needed.
  • Ether should be purchased with inhibitor to help prevent formation of peroxides.
  • Enter the safety data sheet into the UWMyChem system: http://www.ehs.washington.edu/epomychem/index.shtm
  • Label the container with the purchase date and the date it was opened.
  • Store in an explosion proof cabinet.
  • Document staff training about the hazards, the signs and symptoms of exposure, the safety data sheet, and working safely with ether.
  • Lab must have a current Lab Safety Manual with laboratory specific information. http://www.ehs.washington.edu/manuals/lsm/index.shtm
  • Dispose of outdated ether or carcasses exposed to ether as prescribed by Environmental Health and Safety.
  • For questions about the safe use or storage of ether, contact EH&S at 206.543.7388
  • For information about length of storage and for general safety of peroxide forming chemicals, see the EH&S Guidelines for Peroxide Forming Chemicals: http://www.ehs.washington.edu/forms/epo/peroxideguidelines.pdf

If the policy is not adhered to, the IACUC can suspend approval to use ether or require change to another anesthetic agent. Such a change would require a significant change to the approved IACUC protocol.