Health & Safety: Risk Management for Pesticide-Contaminated Collections

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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Some of the information included on this wiki may be out of date, particularly with regard to toxicological data and regulatory standards.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 to this page: Kerith Koss Schrager, Tara Kennedy


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.

For additional health & safety resources see, Health and Safety Technical Resources for the Conservator

Pesticide Identification Resources

Determining whether pesticide residues are present on objects can be difficult since the residues are often not visible to the naked eye.

  • Chemical or analytical tests are required to confirm the presence of pesticides.
  • Learn to recognize the types of collections that are commonly treated and the types of pesticides that are used on those collections.
  • Keep in mind that organic ethnographic, taxidermied, and botanical collections were regularly treated with pesticides such as arsenic, mercury, and DDT.

Overview of Pesticides and Use in Collections

This web site defines pesticides, why and how they were used on Native American collections, current integrated pest management techniques, and pesticides and repatriation.

This web site discusses the history of pesticide use in collections, how to detect pesticide contamination of an object, symptoms of exposure to pesticides, and additional resources.

This web site lists a variety of resources about pesticides in the museum and agricultural industries.

This web site lists a variety of resources about pesticides with a focus on historical use and exposure.

Includes many resources on pesticides including pesticide directories, pesticides and museums, and pesticide use history.

This paper provides a cohesive and authoritative understanding of the ethical, legal, and regulatory aspects of pest management which must be considered when selecting treatments.

A practical guide for identifying, testing, and managing collections that have been contaminated with pesticides, with a focus on repatriation.

This workshop brought together conservators, scientists, and industry representatives to discuss complex issues surrounding pesticide removal from artifacts and to provide examples of the research and work performed at United States and foreign institutions.

Health Hazards Associated with Pesticides

Second edition of this title. Covers general principles of pesticide toxicology, effects of pesticide classes, and data on 256 compounds that have documented human effects.

  • Linnie, M.J. 1990. “Conservation: Pest Control in Museums: The Use of Chemicals and Associated Health Problems,” International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship 9: 419-33.

Provides an overview to many of the chemicals currently used in museums and their documented health effects.

Pesticide Testing

  • Odegaard, N., et al. 2000. Materials characterization tests for objects of art and archaeology. London: Archetype Books.

Literally the textbook for tests of all types of materials, including testing methods for arsenic, lead, and mercury.

This compiled survey data of testing performed by the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) demonstrates twenty years of pesticide testing for Canadian museums. CCI has provided information that has assisted museums to develop proper handling and storage guidelines for objects in their collections: undergoing conservation treatments, being sent out on loan and used in exhibitions, for research, and for other purposes.

Exposure Assessment Resources

If pesticides have been identified, the next step is to conduct an assessment to define the severity of the contamination and the risks associated with handling, storing, and/or displaying the contaminated objects.

Consult an Industrial Hygienist or Safety Professional to determine the following:

  • Can the contamination be contained or eliminated? If not...
  • Determine how exposure risks can be identified and monitored, and
  • Use exposure study results to decide feasible ways to remediate or control exposures

Find a Safety Specialist

Maintains listing of Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH) and professional certification criteria.

Directory lookup tool for industrial hygiene and OEHS professionals near you.

Maintains listing of Certified Safety Professionals (CSP & ASP) and establishes professional certification criteria.

Personal Monitoring

Environmental Monitoring

Exposure Studies

Remediation & Decontamination

In many cases,objects cannot be completely decontaminated and should be isolated to prevent contamination of cabinets, work spaces and exhibitions cases.

  • Clean objects using a HEPA-vacuum for dust suppression or wash to remove contaminants
  • Use a fume hood or trunk whenever possible
  • Consult federal, state and local regulations for proper disposal of each type of pesticide on objects and materials—they may be EPA regulated hazardous waste
  • Process specimens quickly to remove treatment hazards and cover during transport

Resources

Cleaning & Remediating Pesticide-Contaminated Objects

  • Hollinger, R.E. and Hansen, G. 2010. Discussion: Mitigation of Contaminated Collections.Charola,A.E. and Koestler, R.J. (eds.). Pesticide Mitigation in Museum Collections:Science in Conservation: Proceedings from the MCI Workshop Series. Washington,D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press: 65-70.

Materials for Decontamination, Remediation & Isolation

  • Conservation Resources Archival boards, films and foams, storage boxes, trays and HEPA vacuums
  • Conservation Support Systems Personal protective equipment, archival storage supplies, plastic films
  • Gaylord Archival boards, films and foams, storage boxes and trays
  • Grainger Lab supplies, personal protective equipment, plastic sheeting, testing supplies and spill kits
  • Talas Conservation supplies including personal protective equipment and HEPA vacuums

Hazardous Waste Disposal

SAFETY PROTOCOLS & TRAINING

Anyone who will be in contact with contaminated objects or areas must receive periodic training for handling,treatment and cleaning.

  • Always wear and have in stock the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, respirators,lab coats,Tyvek suits and goggles that are approved for the identified contaminant
  • Create a written plan describing safety protocols once a contaminated object has been identified

Resources

Safety Training

Personal Protective Equipment

Writing a Safety Plan

HAZARD DISCLOSURE

Learning to effectively communicate about hazards is an important step in safety in the workplace.

  • Post warning signs for staff and visitors, alerting them to thehazard and required access procedures
  • Learn legal and ethical practices for the disclosure ofpesticide-contaminated items that are going to be shipped,loaned or repatriated
  • Get hazard identification from all lenders of collections,including your own staff

Resources

Hazard Communication

Loaning, Shipping and Repatriation





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