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

Subject: Pesticides


From: Wendy Jessup <prevcon>
Date: Monday, November 18, 2002
Paolo Recanati <consob [at] imj__org__il> writes

>Objects on loan or donated to our Museum may arrive from abroad with
>hungry termites, with paper eating silverfishes or just with their
>eggs, potentially contaminating other "clean" items. As a preventive
>measure, every single object (containing any kind of organic
>material) that enters our Museum, must spend some time in a
>"quarantine" room. Soon after, it is treated in a special sealed
>room with some chemicals such as Permetrin (sort of smoke) or in a
>"bubble" with Methyl Bromide or Phosphin (the latter not on metals)
>that can kill also eggs.

Once treated the objects are "allowed" to be stored or exhibited.
Beside this, once a year, at the beginning of the spring season, we
carry out a thorough treatment to the whole Museum, from all the
storage rooms, the offices and the exhibition halls by spraying
droplets of Permetrin. Within hours or days, any insect or spider is
stone dead. During the treatments we all use the necessary masks. In
the offices we manage to remind in time to seal coffee, tea and
sugar in plastic bags.

I wonder if any of the chemicals we currently use are proven to be
toxic to humans and whether there are other ways to control, limit
or eliminate potential pests and their eggs that are the nightmares
of conservators.

I must admit that I was surprised by this query because a great many
conservators, scientists and collections managers have been actively
engaged, since 1983, in developing alternative strategies for
solving and preventing pest problems in museums.  The pesticides
that are used in his museum are toxic to humans and may cause damage
to the materials that are being treated.   There is a considerable
amount of information that has been published on these issues.

My bibliography on Integrated Pest Management or IPM (although a bit
out of date) is included in CoOL
<URL:>,.  It
provides a list of references for preventing pests and reducing pest
activities in museums, resources for identifying pests and their
environmental niches, publications on material damage and
information on human health hazards.  Our "arsenal" of less-toxic
(to humans and the environment, but lethal to pests), treatments
include the use of low and high temperature, oxygen scavengers,
nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon.  I also commend Sr. Recanti to the
excellent work completed over the last 10 to 15 years by Tom Strang,
Mark Gilberg, Nancy Odegaard, David Pinniger, Mary-Lou Florian,
Vinod Daniel, Robert Child, and others (please forgive me if you
haven't been listed) in these treatment options. Contact Monona
Rossol of Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety for information on
pesticide hazards.

Wendy Claire Jessup
Consulting Conservator
Dumbarton Oaks
Washington, DC, USA
President and Conservator
Wendy Jessup and Associates, Inc.
Arlington, VA, USA
Fax: 703-522-2802

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:34
                 Distributed: Friday, November 22, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-16-34-005
Received on Monday, 18 November, 2002

[Search all CoOL documents]