I only talked about arsenic's use as an art pigment since it was still in use when I was in school and still available today if you know how to get it. But every natural history museum and art museum has to be aware of many arsenic sources. The collections where it is actually visible in quantity are in natural history collections of turn of the century bird, small animal and plant collections that were preserved with arsenic trioxide. When I started in this field, conservators used to just dump the white powder off of the shelf liners and into the nearest waste basket. Now they have procedures in place. But any old natural history collection could contain any pesticide ever made. Conservators in the old days tried everything.
And the next time you see a beautiful taxidermied animal diorama in a museum, be aware that the older and more valuable ones are full of arsenic and the stuffing usually was asbestos. There was a vandalism incident in a famous museum and a diorama animal was ripped apart. The next morning, dozens of employees came to see the disaster and express their horror, unaware that they were walking into an area whose floor was littered with arsenic trioxide and asbestos shorts. It took hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up the stuff that had been tracked into every department.
And geology collections are an issue with all of the arsenic minerals that degrade slowly over time releasing arsenic bits. But geology collections have issues with uranium, cadmium, chromium, thorium, and every other metal known. Many minerals and most fossils are radioactive and we have to monitor radon in collection areas. .
Arsenic to this day is a common colorant in glass, but then so is uranium, cadmium, lead, chromium, and more. Most of the West Coast art and stained glass factories have closed over air pollution issues and the major one, Bullseye, has installed new air filtering equipment and is cutting down on arsenic use. Glass enamels are not manufactured in states that have good environmental over site so they still contain most of these metals. The major glass enamel makers no longer use a lead-glass base but you can still get them. However, arsenic is still used in enamels as are many other toxic metals. And these enamels are in powdered form that is so unstable that to get a good clear color, enamelists need to wash the degraded surface compounds off before they fuse the enamels with heat.
Art museums have a bunch of issues. It's not only those old books that started this thread, but all kinds of old illustrated manuscripts, Japanese and other prints, oils, watercolors and more. And Strathmore was making a water color paper when I was first in this biz called Aquarius II that was primarily asbestos fiber. The drawers where these old water colors are kept have asbestos dust form the friable edges. They usually are exhibited under glass and sealed.
The good news is that conservators today usually have a degree or at least a minor in chemistry. I OSHA-train the new interns at Winterthur Museum at the U of Delaware every year and they are a joy to talk to. Some of your young chemists with really good motor skills might want to look at this as a career option. And ACS and AIC (Am. Institute for Conservation) should be working together on their training programs.
Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist
President: Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
From: Alan Hall <oldeddoc**At_Symbol_Here**GMAIL.COM>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Sent: Sat, Jul 14, 2018 7:30 am
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Arsenic
As one would suspect, Momona hits the nail on the head. Kudos!
And last time I looked at this issue, various trivalent arsenic-containing medications were commonly used as tonics, even by such otherwise great physicians as Sir William Osler who taught at the Johns Hopkins and was the father of the modern bedside teaching of medicine.
I think there is still a trivalent arsenic medicine available called Trisenox(R) which appears to have some efficacy in treating a rather rare form of leukemia.
Certainly, the largest naturally-occuring toxic environmental disaster in the world in thec chronic arsenic poisoning of huge populations in West Bengal India and Bangladesh from tube wells drilled (unknowingly) into what turns out to be a geological formation that has some of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic in the world. A colleague of mine has travelled there and brought back heart-breaking photos of a sinlge survivor, himelf with numersous skin cancers, while enitre rest of his family has died from chronic arsenic poisoning.
I once was asked to peer review an article, I believe it was for the New England Journal of Medicine, in which the author alleged strongly that a father, a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin, who had a museum of natural history, deliberately poisoned his son by insisting he do taxidermy of various animals using an arsenical preparation as a preservative.
A fascinating field, and if old ladies wearing lace and offering you tea and biscuits come to your attention, I'd sugget you look elsewhere for sustenance! Arsenic was commonly used by deliberate poisoners in the past because in many forms it is tasetless, odorless, and colorless. Arsine gas is a quite different animal. Usual treatment for arsenic pooisoning does not seem to be efficacious and the main clinical issue is intravascular hemolysis with the red blood cell debris clogging up the kidneys resulting is acute renal failure.
Then there was a patient who injected both cyanide and arsenic intravenously once that came to my attention.
Most arsenicals are not all that well absorbed through the skin, although there was an old herbicidal prepation used in Italy which did cause a rare form off liver cancer in vinyard workers. And I certain;y saw cases of arsenic poisoning, mostly from inhalation exposure, when I was a company OccDoc for a lead, cadmium, and antimony smelter where the ore contained quite a bit of arsenic and selenium.
I did review much of this in the following publications, if anyone is interested:
Hall AH. Arsenic and Arsine, in: Haddad LM,Wwinchester JF, Shannon MW (eds). Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdoe, 3rd ed. WB suanders Co, Philadelphia, PA, pp 899-905.
Hall AH. Chronic arsenic poisoning. Toxicol Lett 2002; 128-69-72..
AlanAlan H. Hall, M.D.Medical Toxicologist
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On Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 3:41 PM, Mark Ellison <Mark**At_Symbol_Here**tanktrailercleaning.com> wrote:
I would have bet my last paycheck that you would have known something about this, Monona. You know everything! lolMark EllisonFrom: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of Monona Rossol
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2018 2:54 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] ArsenicWe find it in fancy decorative paints used in old theaters. It was still used in the 1920s. And artist's paints used it a lot longer. Here in NYC in the 1990s, I could tell you who to contact for the pigments if you wanted to buy them.. I assume smart internet users can still get them.Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial HygienistPresident: Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
From: Mark Ellison <Mark**At_Symbol_Here**TANKTRAILERCLEANING.COM>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Sent: Fri, Jul 13, 2018 3:33 pm
Subject: [DCHAS-L] ArsenicJust thought I would leave this right here.https://theconversation.com/ho
w-we-discovered-three-poisonou s-books-in-our-university- library-98358Fascinating stuff.Mark Ellison
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