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Subject: Ammonia emission from fabric

Ammonia emission from fabric

From: Rebecca Tidswell <rebecca.tidswell>
Date: Thursday, July 27, 2000
We have recently lined a large gallery with cotton sateen that has
been treated with ammonium bromide fire retardant, which we
understand to be a standard treatment.

The underlay is cotton twill treated with the same fire retardant.
This was stapled to plywood/hardboard wall lining which was
installed over 10 years ago. The decorative fabric was attached to
the underlay with tacks. Braiding was applied with a hot melt
adhesive.  Approximately one week after the installation, we noticed
a strong ammonia smell coming from the walls.  This has continued
for five days without diminishing.  Other museums in England use the
same textile manufacturer and supplier and have not experienced this
problem before.

Immediately before the textile was installed, the oak floors were
sanded and sealed using a polyurethane dispersion, pH 8.   There was
supposed to be a one week gap between finishing the floors and
installing the fabric, however the contractors moved the date
forward.  We are uncertain whether the walls were cleaned prior to
installation of the new fabric.

We are presuming that the fire retardant is reacting with an alkali.
Could the off-gassing of the slightly alkaline floor sealant be
reacting with the fire retardant?  The smell from the walls is not

The gallery is currently empty, but reinstallation is scheduled to
begin in a few days.  The RH fluctuates between 50-55% and there is
poor ventilation in the gallery.   The objects to be installed are
mostly sensitive items including paintings, ivories and cased

No one we have spoken to has ever experienced anything like this.
We would be grateful for any constructive suggestions.

Rebecca Tidswell
Department of Conservation
Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont Street
Oxford  OX1 2PH
+44 1865 278 024

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:8
                  Distributed: Thursday, July 27, 2000
                        Message Id: cdl-14-8-007
Received on Thursday, 27 July, 2000

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