herbarium insectides: their hazards and analysis

Gayle gaylehansen at HARBORSIDE.COM
Mon Feb 28 12:54:38 CST 2005

Dear Taxacom Members,  

A few weeks ago, I wrote an inquiry about the presence and hazards of pesticide residues on historical specimens of marine algae.  I want to thank everyone that responded -- and let you know that my blood tests were negative for both mercury and arsenic.  I now keep my historical specimen loans in a fume hood and examine the problem specimens using gloves and a dust mask (and I no longer eat lunch in the herbarium).  I was unable to find out what the black powder was on the specimens I examined, but I am hoping it was coal dust.  

I am still curious as to why museums and herbaria aren't required to list the pesticides they have used over the years on a website such as Index Herbariorum -- and also to provide a warning with their loans (even a reference to a website giving these details would be sufficient).  To be tested or treated for exposure to any of these compounds (as toxins or allergens), you must know exactly what you have been exposed to -- and this is difficult or impossible to know without such a listing.  I hope that those of you in control of such websites will take this suggestion to heart.

Below is a summary of some of the museum pesticide articles (both for plants and animals) that I was referred to.  I hope you find them useful.

Gayle Hansen
Hatfield Marine Science Center
Oregon State University
2030 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, Oregon 97365 USA

Gayle.Hansen at oregonstate.edu

Purewal, V.  2001.  The identification of four persistent and hazardous residues present on historic plant collections housed with the national museum and galleries of Wales.  Collection Forum 16 (1-2):  77-86.

U. S. National Park Service.  2000.  Arsenic health and safety update.  Conserve-O-Gram 2/3:  1-4.  http://www.cr.nps.gov/museum/publications/conserveogram/02-03.pdf

Sirois, PJ.  2001.  The analysis of museum objects for the presence of arsenic and mercury:  non-destructive analysis and sample analysis.  Collection Forum 16 (1-2):  65-75.  http://www.spnhc.org/documents/CF16/sirois.pdf

Hawks, C., Makos, K., Bell, D., Wamback, P. F., and Burroughs, G. E.  2004.  An inexpensive method to test for mercury vapor in herbarium cabinets.  Taxon 53 (3):  783-790. 

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