WAACNewsletter
Volume 16, Number 1, Jan. 1994, p.22

Health and Safety

by Chris Stavroudis

Conservators pass through life with one foot in the present and the other rooted firmly in the past. In the more-or-less recent past, October 31 was not just Halloween this year: 2:00 in the morning was the time to reset our clocks from daylight savings time to standard time--fall-back day.

The return from daylight savings time to standard time is also a safety preparedness day. It is the day we are supposed to replace the batteries in our home smoke detectors. This is an important enough occasion, but consider the corollaries. Check all your personal protection equipment. What needs replacing? Where are your solvent resistant gloves? If you haven't already done so, it is not too late to change the smoke alarm batteries at home. Test your smoke and fire alarm systems. Check your fire extinguishers. Push those test buttons on GFI (ground fault interrupt) outlets if you have them. (The one in my bathroom failed the test when I checked it on "fall-back day.")

In preparing this column, I thumbed through a years back issues of ACTS Facts and Art Hazards News. The good news is there is no really terrible new bad news. There is lots of information that all conservators should think about, however. Like the article (also discussed in the November AIC News Health & Safety News column) on male reproductive hazards of solvents. And I'm not that dismayed because of the potential risk to the offspring of soon-to-be conservation fathers. (Although I am certainly not down-playing the importance of the findings.) I'm dismayed because it indicates just how complex the body's response to toxic materials is. If solvent exposure can have such indirect consequences, imagine how much worse the direct consequences to our bodies must really be.

I could summarize the information of importance to conservators in this column. But I wont. Keep an eye on the AIC News Health & Safety News column and WAAC's AYMHM for this type of information. There is more to it than laziness on my part, though. YOU should subscribe to these publications yourself. YOU should read through them. This act, this devotional activity, will focus your attention on you health and safety. After all, it is all about YOU.

In volume 15, number 4 of Art Hazards News, there is an article on "Fluorescent Lights and PCBs." This makes me think about Aroclor, the slide mounting medium. About how easily it is absorbed through the skin. About how vapors can be absorbed through the lungs. About my own exposure to the carcinogen when I over heated the bottle of mounting medium and it started to smoke. No one had told me it was (then) a suspected carcinogen and that it should only be used in a fume hood. Did the exposure affect me? Probably not. But it gives me pause. What else am I (mis)using today that I will regret tomorrow?

It is this type of meditation that reading through ACTS FACTS once a month and Art Hazards News five times a year can initiate. Subscribe. What a nice "fall-back day," Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year's present to yourself.

Art Hazards News: Center for Safety in the Arts; 5 Beekman Street, Ste 1030; NY, NY 10038. $21.00 per year subscription (5 issues).

ACTS FACTS: Art, Crafts and Theater Safety; 181 Thompson St., #23; NY, NY 10012. $10.00 per year subscription (12 issues).

Chris Stavroudis is a conservator in private practice.

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