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Subject: Containers for contaminated study skins

Containers for contaminated study skins

From: Helene Tello <h.tello<-a>
Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Irene Karsten <ikarsten [at] ualberta__net> writes

>...  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

I would suggest to use appropriate protective clothing at any time
while handling artifacts that are contaminated with arsenic,
especially when no testing was carried out in advance. Generally,
containers are made of PVC, which is permeable to gases, resp. to
pesticides. Arsenic, like all other substances that were used as
pesticides, has a specific vapor pressure depending on the room
temperature, etc. To my understanding only foils that are made of
aluminum and ceramic are impermeable to any gases.

Also, the time of exposure, resp. the ADI (acceptable daily intake)
of a dangerous substance like arsenic, and the age of a student
should be considered, when plans are set up to study contaminated
artifacts in depth.

Helene Tello

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:16
                Distributed: Sunday, September 21, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-22-16-003
Received on Tuesday, 16 September, 2008

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