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Subject: Containers for contaminated study skins

Containers for contaminated study skins

From: Irene Karsten <ikarsten<-a>
Date: Friday, September 5, 2008
At the University of Alberta we have a small wildlife collection
that includes mounted vertebrate specimens and study skins that date
from the early to late 20th century.  The collection is almost
exclusively and regularly used for undergraduate teaching.  Due to
an upcoming move of the collection, we are just beginning to grapple
with issues related to the probable use of arsenic to prepare many
specimens in the collection.  To date nothing has been tested but we
are looking into that at present and we are consulting with our
Environmental Health and Safety department.

My question concerns the use of containers for the smaller study
skins as a means of protecting students from the risks due to the
presence of arsenic on the skins.  I have been reading through
available literature on suggested handling techniques for such
specimens and for contaminated ethnographic artifacts.  Techniques
recommended focus on protective wear such as gloves, respirators,
lab coats, etc. as well as methods for disposing and cleaning. Is it
possible to provide students with sufficient protection from arsenic
by enclosing the specimens in transparent plastic tubes of the kind
that are sometimes used in natural history collection storage?  Are
there specific products available that might be recommended?  Would
full protective gear still be required even with such enclosures?
Are such collections simply not appropriate for handling intensive

Irene Karsten
Museum Conservator
Museums and Collections Services
Ring House 1
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada  T6G 2E1
Fax: 780-492-6185

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:14
                 Distributed: Sunday, September 7, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-14-019
Received on Friday, 5 September, 2008

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