Letter about fumigation

Erich Kesse

I am writing in response to your request for information regarding fumigation in library preservation and fumigation chambers in libraries. Questions about the health and safety implications of various methods and "fumigants" may be directed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which maintains its regional office at: U.S. Dept of Labor - OSHA, 1375 Peachtree St., NE, Suite 587, Atlanta, GA 30367 (tel: 404-347-3573), or to OSHA's Consultation Service in Florida at tel: 904-488-3044. These questions may also be addressed to the State of Florida's Dept. of Labor and Employment at tel: 904-488-4398. Or, to the Center for Safety in the Arts at 5 Beekman Street, Suite 1030, New York, NY 10038 (tel: 212-227-6220); or, Ellen McCrady, Editor, Abbey Publications, 320 E. Center Street, Provo, UT 84606 (tel: 801-373-1598) for further information or confirmation of the following information. For information about commercial services, you may wish to contact the Florida Pest Control Association at tel: 305-293-8627.

OSHA regulations govern the installation, operation and maintenance of fumigation chambers. Regulation is now so tight that it is general practice, among libraries, to seek commercial fumigation rather than to attempt fumigation themselves. The regulation of most fumigants used to eradicate insect infestations generally requires certification of personnel if not also facilities. Fumigation chambers previously installed and operated by libraries, such as the Vacudine Chamber at the University of Miami, are no longer used, and are increasingly being converted to Blast Freezing Chambers. Blast freezing is a safe, non-chemical insect eradication treatment. The Wei T'o Company (P.O. Drawer 40, 21750 Main Street Unit 27, Matteson, IL 60443; tel: 312-747-6660) maintains a patent on this technology and sells blast freezers for slightly more than the cost of fumigation chambers.

Scientific research, including that performed by UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, has begun to show the deleterious effects of fumigants upon paper-based and other library materials. The only fumigant now tacitly recommended by the archives, library and museum preservation community in the United States is Vikane. Vikane is least likely to damage these materials. Vikane, manufactured by DOW Chemicals, is regulated by OSHA and requires certified operators and exacting conditions.

The University of Florida Libraries maintains contacts with the University Division of Health and Safety's Pest Control Office. This Office provides training in the identification of insect pests and infestations, and fumigates with Vikane under certified conditions in its off-site fumigation chamber.

In general, the Preservation Office does not recommend chemical fumigation treatments unless absolutely necessary. We attempt to control insects and prevent them from entering the library, using "Integrated Pest Management" methodologies. These methodologies make libraries less attractive to insects. For further information contact either: SOLINET's Preservation Program Office (tel: 800-999-8558) or the Chicora Foundation (tel: 803-787-6910). Printed information has been compiled by the Chicora Foundation, for its SOLINET workshops, in a volume entitled: Integrated Pest Management, available from UF through Inter-Library Loan.

In addition, for new acquisitions, the Preservation Office has published information bulletins for collection managers and acquisitions staff. Know the signs of insect infestation provides brief instruction on identification of infestations. Procedures for reviewing library materials: identification of infested paper, book and textile formats details notification and routing procedures.

Erich J. Kesse
Preservation Office
University of Florida Libraries
Fax: 904-392-7251

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