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Subject: Pigeon droppings

Pigeon droppings

From: Elizabeth Meek <elizabeth.meek>
Date: Monday, November 6, 2006
Ercole Gialdi < [at] tiscali__it> writes

>I have a problem in my library: a window had been left open and a
>pigeon entered inside the books deposit staying there some days,
>soiling soiled many books with excrement. Can advise me on how to
>clean them?

Pigeon droppings are associated with serious (sometimes fatal)
fungal diseases in humans (histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis), and care
needs to be taken when handling contaminated objects to prevent
inhalation of fungal spores. My understanding is that the worst
build up of disease organisms is found in the soil under an
established roost, with humans vulnerable to infection if they
breath in dust stirred up when the roost is disturbed. Although you
are less likely to contract a serious case of a fungal disease from
fresh droppings, it is best to treat all contaminated objects with
due caution. There are a couple of earlier postings in the DistList
archives on this topic, and a web search on 'pigeon health hazards'
will turn up numerous useful sites, of which the following is one:

We recently treated some new acquisitions which had been stored in a
barn under a pigeon roost for a number of years, and were heavily
contaminated. After freezing them at -29 deg. C for several weeks to
control the silverfish infestation, the books were transferred to
our hygiene room, and treated under an extraction unit specifically
designed to remove dust/spores which is on a separate exhaust system
to our chemical fume hoods. Wearing protective clothing including
gloves, overalls and a mask/respirator capable of filtering out
fungal spores, the dry droppings were removed by scraping off as
much as possible, followed by swabbing with ethanol until no further
residue could be seen. Work surfaces were wiped down with ethanol,
and wipes/protective clothing/swabs were all disposed of as

Most of the droppings were concentrated on the bookcloth covering
and were relatively easy to remove completely, as they were sitting
on the surface. However, some droppings on the head or fore edge of
a volume had penetrated into the paper, and these volumes are being
kept aside for some localised treatment and/or discussion with the
curator about whether we feel the books are now safe to be handled.

I would be interested to hear anyone else's experience with objects
that may pose a health risk to users. Although the risk does now
seem very small indeed. The leather damaged by the droppings was
consolidated with Klucel-G in isopropanol, and the books will have
mylar dustjackets made for them before they are added to the
collection. Apart from the silverfish nibble-marks, the bindings now
show no signs of damage.

Elizabeth Meek

Senior Book Conservator
The National Library of New Zealand/Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
Corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets
PO Box 1467
Wellington 6001
New Zealand
+64 4 474 3168
Fax: +64 4 474 3035
elizabeth.meek [at] natlib__govt__nz

                  Conservation DistList Instance 20:26
                 Distributed: Monday, November 13, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-20-26-010
Received on Monday, 6 November, 2006

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