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Subject: Containers for contaminated study skins

Containers for contaminated study skins

From: Helene Tello <h.tello<-a>
Date: Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Irene Karsten <ikarsten [at] ualberta__net> writes

>...  Due to
>an upcoming move of the collection, we are just beginning to grapple
>with issues related to the probable use of arsenic to prepare many
>specimens in the collection.  To date nothing has been tested but we
>are looking into that at present and we are consulting with our
>Environmental Health and Safety department.
>
>My question concerns the use of containers for the smaller study
>skins as a means of protecting students from the risks due to the
>presence of arsenic on the skins.  I have been reading through
>available literature on suggested handling techniques for such
>specimens and for contaminated ethnographic artifacts.  Techniques
>recommended focus on protective wear such as gloves, respirators,
>lab coats, etc. as well as methods for disposing and cleaning. Is it
>possible to provide students with sufficient protection from arsenic
>by enclosing the specimens in transparent plastic tubes of the kind
>that are sometimes used in natural history collection storage?  Are
>there specific products available that might be recommended?  Would
>full protective gear still be required even with such enclosures?
>Are such collections simply not appropriate for handling intensive
>teaching?

Certainly, it is well known that the vapor pressure at normal
temperatures for arsenic is very low. Besides, there is a process of
diffusion, though it is imperceptible and lasting a long time, when
objects resp. here the studied skins are enriched with arsenic.

PVC contains a lot of softeners, which might cause a problem
concerning the longtime storage for contaminated skins. It can
separate chlorines due to ageing and has a higher tendency for salts
to creep up the walls of PVC containers in contrast to other
materials (Astrup and Stub 1990).

Therefore, I would recommend to use foiles of PE or plastics with a
ceramic or aluminum coating rather than PVC. Foiles with a ceramic
coating give easily access to control an artifact at any time. The
priority of rank for foiles and aluminum coated foiles is given in a
case study of the Kunstistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria
(Griesser et al. 2005).

I hope this information will help to find a good solution for the
problem in moving a collection with contaminated artifacts.

Helene Tello
Dipl.-Rest. (FH)
Ethnologisches Museum Berlin
Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Arnimallee 27
14195 Berlin
+49 30 8301 296
Fax: +49 30 8301 500


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:33
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Received on Wednesday, 26 November, 2008

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