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Subject: Tests for "lignin-free" materials

Tests for "lignin-free" materials

From: James Cartwright <jimc>
Date: Monday, July 15, 1991
In preparing an order recently for acid free storage supplies, I became
aware of claims concerning lignin which I would like clarified.  The
Conservation Resources catalog for Spring, Fall 1991, p. 8 states that
the phloroglucinol test for lignin only indicates quantities of 20% or
greater of lignin in paper and boxes, and since even small amounts can
produce acids and peroxides which will damage the contents of the boxes,
one "should not rely upon this test."  During Bonnie Curtin's hands on
presentation to the Association of Hawaiian Archivists a year ago (June
1990), someone indicated that phloroglucinol will test for as little as
6% lignin.

First group of questions:  Does phloroglucinol test accurately for that
low a content of lignin?  If not, will anything test for that small a
content of lignin?  Will anything test for the existence of any lignin?
What is an acceptable level of lignin?  Is that level "acceptable" only
because we cannot test for smaller amounts?

Later on the same page of the Conservation Resources catalog, the writer
implies that the brown color of the core paper of some acid free
containers indicates it contains lignin.  Bleaching removes the brown --
most of it -- but not the lignin.  So obviously even with a light brown
core, the dangerous lignin remains.  The final implication seems to be
that only by buying lignin free paper can one be safe.  Probably so, but
if tests indicate only 20% or higher content and brown color indicates
the presence of it, we have another problem.  Hollinger advertises its
"gray/white board" as containing no lignin.  These conflicting claims
cause budget complications.  Does one buy the inexpensive Conservation
Resources box which they admit contains lignin? Does one buy the more
expensive Hollinger box which Hollinger claims is lignin free but which
has a brownish core which CR suggests means lignin is present?  CR's
lignin-free box, however, costs more still?  And can we rely upon their
word -- any seller's word?

Thanks to all who comment.

Jim Cartwright, University Archivist, University of Hawaii, Manoa

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:10
                  Distributed: Thursday, July 18, 1991
                        Message Id: cdl-5-10-006
Received on Monday, 15 July, 1991

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