1.15 Development of Passive Monitors for Museum Air Quality Measurements

Daniel Grosjean and Associates
The Getty Conservation Institute

Daniel Grosjean
Edwin Williams
Cecily Grzywacz
Dusan Stulik
Period of Activity: 4/89 to 4/92

Project Abstract
The measurement of air pollutants, including indoor aldehydes, is currently limited in two ways. Analytical methods capable of measurement in the parts-per-billion range require considerable technical skill and equipment, which places these outside the range of most institutions. The second limitation is that current passive monitors were designed for human health monitoring and are 100-1000 times less sensitive than the concentration ranges often found in museums. For these two reasons, the development of more sensitive passive monitors was implemented in two phases. Phase 1 included three steps: (a) to evaluate current methods for formaldehyde monitoring including passive and analytical methods, (b) to develop new monitors based upon the most promising methods, and (c) to test and field validate these new devices in selected museum settings.

Phase 2 continued with formaldehyde, exploring direct-reading badges, and included ozone, nitrogen dioxide, PAN, total oxidants, and sulfur dioxide.

As a result of phase 1, completed winter 1989, one commercial monitor was identified to have reliable ppb monitoring capabilities based upon the DNPH method. This monitor is available from GMD Systems, Inc. (Hendersonville, PA) at a cost of $12.00 for the badge and $40.00 for badge plus prepaid analysis. Phase 1 also resulted in an alternative badge design than has been well characterized and will be utilized during subsequent specific-pollutant monitor development in phase 2.

When these passive monitoring methodologies have been finished they shall be included within a global network monitoring program currently under design.

Primary Publications
Grosjean, D., "Development and Evaluation of Passive Monitors for Airborne Formaldehyde," Final Report to the (Conservation at the Getty) Institute by Daniel Grosjean and Associates, Inc., [4526 Telephone Road, Suite 205, Ventura, California 93003], November 1990.

ABSTRACT-The objective of this project was to evaluate and test passive monitors capable of detecting formaldehyde at the low levels (parts per billion) relevant to museum air quality. Following a comprehensive literature survey of existing methods, laboratory tests were carried out using several commercially available devices. One of these devices, a DNPH-coated filter, was deemed suitable for measuring low levels of formaldehyde in museum air. Concurrently, we developed and evaluated an inexpensive passive sampler.

Grosjean, D., E. L. Williams II, and C. M. G. Druzik, "Development and Evaluation of Passive Monitors for Measuring Airborne Formaldehyde in Museums," Joint Final Report to the Getty Conservation Institute by Daniel Grosjean and Associates, Inc., 1991.

ABSTRACT-See abstract immediately above.

Druzik, C., and D. Stulik, "Formaldehyde: Detection and Mitigation," WAAC Annual Meeting, Catalina Island, California, October 15-17, 1990.

ABSTRACT-In recent years there has been much concern about pollutants in the museum environment. GCI has undertaken an extensive Environmental Research Program identifying, quantifying, and removing pollutants. Simple, economical passive monitors were developed to detect low parts-per-billion (ppb) levels of many pollutants found in the museum environment based upon the chemistry used in dynamic sampling modes for atmospheric pollutants. Commercially available monitors and a generic passive sampler are discussed. Validation studies and application of the passive monitors are presented. Methods of formaldehyde mitigation are also explored. Relatively high concentrations of formaldehyde were detected in enclosed spaces, such as display cases and storage cabinets, in GCI's survey of airborne pollutants in the museum. Selection of "poor" building materials or breach of proper preparation or technical regimes were identified as the major sources for carbonyl pollutants. A "Formaldehyde Eliminator" was developed and tested. Design criteria, testing procedures, and use of the Formaldehyde Eliminator as a means of mitigation are described.

Druzik, C., and D. Stulik, "Passive Monitors for Detection of Pollutants in Museum Environments," 19th Annual Meeting, American Institute for Conservation, Objects Specialty Group, Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 3-8, 1991.

ABSTRACT-None available.

Grzywacz, C. M., "Using Passive Sampling Devices to Detect Pollutants in Museum Environments," Paper presented at the 1993 ICOM Meeting, Washington D.C., August 1993.

ABSTRACT-In the mid-1980s the Getty Conservation Institute undertook an extensive environmental research program which included the detection and mitigation of indoor-generated carbonyl pollutants found in museum environments. Carbonyl pollutants were measured in museum galleries, storage areas, display cases, and storage cabinets in locations throughout the United States. The concentrations ranged from less than 0.2 parts per billion (ppb) to nearly 1600 ppb. The highest concentrations were found in areas with little air circulation, such as display cases. Other research focused on evaluation of simple, economical passive sampling devices (PSDs). The best PSD was the GMD Formaldehyde Dosimeter (GMD Systems, Inc., Henderson, PA, USA). This dosimeter uses 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine to trap airborne carbonyl pollutants which are later extracted and analyzed by liquid chromatography. The sensitivity is less than one ppb for 24 hours exposure. The agreement with conventional active sampling methods was 13%.

Grzywacz, C.M., and N. H. Tennent, "Monitoring Pollutants: Methods and Survey Goals," In Preservation of Collections: Assessment, Evaluation, and Mitigation Strategies. Papers presented at the workshop, Nowfolk, VA, American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Washington D.C., 1996, pp. 21-27.

ABSTRACT - The information which museum pollutant surveys can provide is dependent on the sophistication of the chosen method of sampling. Comparisons are drawn between the utility of complex techniques for active sampling and simple passive sampling methods, including metal coupons, direct-reading passive samplers and passive samplers requiring post-deployment laboratory analysis. The virtues and drawbacks of the various approaches are presented and related to the pollution monitoring surveys carried out by the Getty Conservation Institute in the last 10 years. The results of the organic carbonyl pollutant (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, formic acid and acetic acid) surveys are summarized, stressing the greater danger to collections in sealed environments, such as display cases and storage cabinets, compared to open galleries and storage areas. While formaldehyde is a significant threat to collections, it is emphasized that the role of acetic acid has been underrated.

The results of corrosion and efflorescence product analysis on items affected by organic carbonyl pollutants are described. The analysis of these products provides important information necessary to identify the most damaging pollutants, to appreciate which materials are most susceptible and to understand the deterioration processes.

The importance of elimination - or at least mitigation - of pollutants as a consequence of surveys is reinforced by examples. Guidelines for pollution surveys and monitoring techniques, of relevance to conservators and collection managers are discussed,


Grzywacz, C.M., and N.H. Tennent, "The Threat of Organic Carbonyl Pollutants to Museum Collections", In European Commission Workshop: Effects of the Environment on Indoor Cultural Property, Würzburg, Germany, in press 1995.

ABSTRACT - The danger posed to collections by the presence of organic carbonyl compounds in storage and display environments is addressed on the basis of the observed damage to artifacts and pollution monitoring studies in Europe involving several major British and Dutch collections. Discussion of the results of the intensive study of problems displayed by these collections is combined with information of damage in other European museums and with the results of an extensive survey of the United States involving 17 cultural institutions.

Pollution monitoring (acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acetic acid and formic acid) and the analysis of corrosion or efflorescence products on artifacts has deepened the understanding of the issues. In particular, these concerted studies have led to an appreciation that:

The threat of acetic acid has been underestimated compared to the attention given to formaldehyde. Acetic acid is the more significant cause of the deterioration in the European museums studied.

Although certain "Museum Grade" products have been developed to take account of formaldehyde emissions, the acetic acid hazard has been neglected. Such apparently safe products can be a real threat to susceptible collections.

On the basis of these investigations there is a clear need for additional monitoring surveys associated with analyses of artifact deterioration. The importance of display and storage materials testing and the wisdom of subsequent monitoring is confirmed.


Grzywacz, C.M., "Monitoring Air Quality in Museum Environments," in Storage of Natural History Collections: A Preventive Conservation Approach, Volume I, eds. C.L. Rose, C.A. Hawks, and H.H. Genoways, The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Washington, D.C., 1995, pp. 197-209.

ABSTRACT - Book chapter. No abstract available.


Grzywacz, C.M., and N.H. Tennent, "Pollution Monitoring in Storage and Display Cabinets: Carbonyl Pollutant Levels in Relation to Artifact Deterioration," in Preventive Conservation Practice, Theory and Research; ed. Ashok Roy and Perry Smith, The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, London, 1994, pp. 164-170.

ABSTRACT - None available.