Background: I recently started in a lab that regularly uses β-mercaptoethanol (βME) for protein purification. I know that the chemical is an irritant for the lungs if inhaled (mucus membranes), damaging if in contact with eyes, toxic if in contact with skin. However, I have had projects in different labs that handle this chemical differently. Some strictly only open it in the fume-hood, have designed waste in the fume-hood for any pipette tips that touch βME and always discard any protective gloves that they used while handling this chemical directly after use — so not to spread residual βME all over the lab. This also goes for any buffers that have βME in it.
In the lab that I currently work in, they open the concentrated bottle of βME in the fume hood, but they don't care too much about discarding pippete tips in designated waste nor change gloves after use (and I know that the gloves smell like βME after opening the bottle). In addition, they do not work with lammeli buffer in the fume hood (they use 4 × lammeli for SDS-PAGE). However, from the safety manual of lammeli-buffers — which also contains βME (and you can immidiately smell that) it seems to be just as hazardous as the concentrated βME.
I dont have hypochondria when it comes to lab safety, but I would like to develop a rational understanding of how dangerous this is common chemical is. In addition I belive that the fridge which we store βME in smells quite strongly of βME. Should the bottle be stored in a secondary container (plastic bag) in addition?
Question: How do people who commonly use this chemical treat it during their everyday lab routines? How hazards is it to regularly inhale trances of βME from e.g. the fridge or when people work with lammeli buffers on the lab bench? What do people think about discarding their gloves after working with it, before they start touches other lab equipment?