Collection Hazards

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Health & Safety Network Conservation Wiki

Copyright: 2020. The Health & Safety Wiki pages are a publication of the Health & Safety Network of the American Institute for Conservation.

Some of the information included on this wiki may be out of date, particularly with regard to toxicological data and regulatory standards. Also, because new information on safety issues is continually published, resources outside of AIC should be consulted for more specific information.

Contributors: Kerith Koss Schrager, Tara Kennedy

General Information

This tool will help you learn about commonly encountered health hazards found in some museum collections.

Panel members provided images and descriptions of hazards and outlined resources for devising methods for handling hazardous materials safely. Summaries of some of these situations are found in this article, along with answers to some of the questions that discussants found they had in common.

Managing Collection Hazards

A comprehensive presentation encompassing different types of collection hazards including pesticides, medicinal and pharmaceutical collections, radiation, and others. Presented to a wide audience on Connecting to Collections Care.

The following procedures will help create a risk management plan for the safe handling of hazardous collection materials objects.

This short H&S article talks about HEPA and ULPA vacuum filtration for cleaning and managing hazards.

This article summarizes federal and state regulations applying to the disposal of hazardous materials, and how to safely dispose of chemicals and other toxic materials that conservators may encounter during treatment.


Article discussing different possible contaminants that could be found on collections recovered from disaster sites, such as the World Trade Center, and the health and safety precautions necessary to clean and treat them safely. Includes information about collections containing asbestos.

Heavy Metals

Comprehensive article concerning identification and handling of tin-mercury amalgam mirrors. Also provides information on elemental mercury clean-up, disposal, and mercury detection and spill supplies.

Extensive article defining heavy metals, detection methods, and health and safety considerations. Includes separate sections about mercury and arsine (arsenic gas).


See: Mold

General facts about mold: how it forms, how it can adversely affect our health, and why it is difficult to eliminate.

Extensive article by a certified industrial hygienist about mold, its toxicology, evaluating mold presence and exposure assessment, remediation activities, and the effectiveness of decontamination.



The following resources will help create a risk management plan for the safe handling of pesticide-contaminated objects. Contamination includes all current pesticide treatments, legacy hazards from historic treatments, and toxic elements inherent to the collection.

This resource guide is references listed in thirteen sub-categories, which are grouped into three broader sections. The first section consists of general pesticide resources, directories, references about pesticides and museums, and pesticide use history. The second section is references and resources pertaining to health, safety, and toxicology; legislation and regulatory information; and pesticide analysis and mitigation. The third section pertains to specific classes of pesticides, such as inorganic and organochlorine.

Medicinal & Pharmaceutical Collections

Additional Topics