Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: CFC's and Wei To

CFC's and Wei To

From: Robert J. Milevski <milevski>
Date: Monday, December 14, 1992
I would like to broadly address the issue regarding Dick Smith's appeal
for exemption to continue using CFC/HCFCs in Wei T'o and subsequently to
continue selling it and keeping his business solvent (pun intended).

I do not wish to bring up the issue of efficacy with regard to either
Wei T'o or DEZ, but that of market forces.  Please read the following
letter written recently by Dick Miller of Akzo Chemical and faxed to the
director of the Association of Research Libraries making a similar
appeal for DEZ.  It is recorded here without permission.

  October 16, 1992

  Mr. Duane Webster
  Executive Director
  The Association of Research Libraries
  1527 New Hampshire Avenue
  Washington, DC 20036

  Dear Duane,

  As a provider of mass deacidification services, we wish to underscore
  the necessity of prompt and meaningful action by the research library
  community to permit the continued participation of companies such as

  Akzo operates a small scale treatment facility in the vicinity of
  Houston, Texas with capacity for approximately 40,000 books per year,
  it is at present less than half-occupied.  In order for Akzo to
  continue its participation in this business, we must have the
  reasonable prospect -- by early 1993 -- of fully occupying this
  facility.  To put this statement is a broader context, we offer the
  following additional information:

  --Akzo has offered DEZ mass deacidification treatment at its facility
  in Deer Park, Texas since July, 1989 when we obtained rights to the
  technology.  We have invested in excess of one million dollars in this
  development effort to date.  We have as yet received no significant
  return on this investment in a general business climate that has
  little tolerance for such performance.

  --Our Texas facility operates as a small-scale production unit with
  annual capacity for 40,000 books per year.  Initial operation of such
  a treatment unit is conventional practice within our industry for
  business development.  Such operation is not regarded as experimental
  within our industry.  Such operation typically aims at both
  significant product enhancement and at market development.

  --Akzo recognizes that the current treatment price of $15 per book is
  not attractive to research libraries.  However, the key to reduction
  of this fee is increased volume.

  --Our contemplated work with the Library of Congress will have no
  material impact on the underutilization of our facility in the next
  twelve months.

  ARL is the premier organization of research libraries.  We ask for
  your support in transmitting this information and that contained on
  the enclosed two page fact-sheet to your constituency.

  Very truly yours,

  Richard F. Miller
  Director, Book & Document Preservation
  Akzo Chemicals Inc.
  Chemical Division

The two page fact sheet is not added to this message.  

Dick Miller is saying that if research libraries do not invest in DEZ
soon, Akzo will forced to withdraw from the mass deacidification
marketplace for lack of interest in its product and for a lack of
profitability.  It is a free market out there!  Libraries can support
one vendor of services or many service vendors or none of them at all. A
profitable, or healthy, marketplace is not created by the vendor setting
the terms of its involvement in that marketplace, even if it seems that
it might feel that it has a good product and is the only BIG game in
town--for the time being.  (Remember the commercial library binding game
before preservation librarians existed en masse? The binders dictated
their terms to libraries, the libraries who put them in business in the
first place!  It's wonderful now that commercial binders and librarians
could agree/hammer out on a new, "conservationally sound", binding
standard.  The PAs fended off the satanic stitches of industrial

If research libraries have decided, individually or collectively, and
for any number of valid and emotional reasons, that they do not need, or
cannot afford, mass deacidification services at this time, then so be
it, regardless of all of the hype that librarians and preservation
administrators have mouthing for years about this grand savior of their
rotting collections, this mass deacidification.  (They will continue to
wring their hands one way or another with or without mass
deacidification.)  The marketplace has spoken: we are not ready yet or
you are not ready yet.  As we know, demand currently exists from those
institutions hoping to utilize such technology for their own collections
or to catalyze others into action through their example. (E.g., Harvard
and Johns Hopkins Universities and the Humanities Research Center.)  If
there is no market out there, then Akzo should logically withdraw,
without kicking and screaming.  Why are they grumbling about the gamble
that they took?  It was a risk.  They knew it.  (Remember Union Carbide
sticking its neck out with Wei T'o?  How long do you think that FMC will
let its paper preservation service and MBG to continue being a loss
leader, a money pit?)  Now they are whining and trying to pin the rap on
the library community.  ("Do not go gentle into that good night.")

Now to get back to Wei T'o:  I do not feel that the company should
receive any hardship or economic dispensation to continue using
CFC/HCFCs in its propellant line of products, to continue to contribute
to the destruction of the earth's ozone layer.  (Why doesn't all the
ozone from copy machines and automobiles replenish the ozone layer?) Wei
T'o is a small business.  Perhaps it is an undercapitalized business as
well and cannot afford the scientific research necessary to find a
"safe" and inexpensive alternative propellant for its product.  (I think
that the big companies that can afford the research will find a
solution.  Dr. Smith will then be able to license it for use in his
propellant products.)  This is also the marketplace, referring to the
previous paragraphs on DEZ.  You got to pay to play.  (Should the
farmers and charcoal makers in the Amazonian rain forests be given
dispensation to continue their slash and burn methods in order to
continue to make a living while irreversibly affecting their continent's
and the world's weather and eco-system?  Should the Chesapeake Bay
watermen be allowed to continue to harvest smaller and smaller batches
of small diseased oysters to continue to pay their bills?  I am not
implying that these are not hard economic questions.  I do not have the
answers, just giving my opinions.)

The November 15, 1992 Library Journal article, referred to in the 6:29
iteration of the DistList, which appears enormously biased toward Wei
T'o, and quite the opposite, prejudiced, to DEZ, based on previous
coverage, refers to a letter Smith wrote which claims that the exemption
would support a "very small and valuable use of CFC and HCFC solvents."
Dr. Smith, it is all the small uses of CFCs, etc. which created the big
hole in the ozone layer!  Smith also uses hyperbole several times in the
article to support or distort his claim about the usefulness of Wei T'o.
For example, "'I don't think anybody is going to live or die over this
decision, [except perhaps his business, my opinion] but the quality of
how we live with respect to how individuals relate to one another and
work would be affected...We're talking about what holds us all
together--it's our history.'"  (Is he saying that Wei T'o and the use of
it in the preservation of our historical heritage is all that holds us
together as a nation?)  And of course, another example of extreme
exaggeration is his previously quoted line "Smith estimates that more
than 90 percent of the library/archive/museum community uses his
solution." Perhaps Dr. Smith refers to the fact that many institutions
purchased his products in the past to try them out.  Do they continue to
use them?  Perhaps he should have said that 90% of the community
experimented with his products.  Princeton doesn't use Wei T'o any
longer, although we still have a couple aerosol cans as well as propane
type containers full of solution and cleaner lying around.

Well, I'm burned out right now on this topic.  Anyone want to comment?

Robert J. Milevski
Preservation Librarian
Princeton University Libraries

                  Conservation DistList Instance 6:33
                Distributed: Thursday, December 17, 1992
                        Message Id: cdl-6-33-009
Received on Monday, 14 December, 1992

[Search all CoOL documents]