Topics in Photographic Preservation 2003, Volume 10, Article 1 (pp. 1-1)

Responding to Biological Hazards:
The Effects of Chlorine Dioxide, Ethylene Oxide, Foam, and
Irradiation on People and Cultural Property.

Andrew Robb

Presented at the 30th AIC Annual Meeting, Miami, Florida, 2002


The recent incidents involving letters containing anthrax and the subsequent decontamination efforts have raised the need for biological hazard responses in emergency response plans. This paper discusses the nature of biological hazards, the organization of the emergency response, the various response methods, and the risks of these methods to people and cultural property. The Senate Hart Office Building emergency response is examined as a case study. Recovery of the building and its contents included decontamination by liquids, foams, and gases (including chlorine dioxide and ethylene oxide) as well as vacuuming. Treatment of the mail involved irradiation. Their effects on photographs, works of art on paper, manuscripts, books, and architectural drawings subjected to these response methods are discussed. In addition, other possible methods of recovery and prevention are described in relation to emergency response planning for cultural institutions.

Andrew Robb
Senior Photograph Conservator
Conservation Division
Library of Congress

Papers Presented in Topics in Photographic Preservation, Volume Ten have not undergone a formal process of peer review.