Volatile aldehydes in libraries and archives

Ann Fenech, Irena Kralj Cigic, Alenka Levart, Lorraine T. Gibson, Gerrit de Bruin, Konstantinos Ntanos, Jana Kolar, May Cassar

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Volatile aldehydes are produced during degradation of paper-based materials. This may result in their accumulation in archival and library repositories. However, no systematic study has been performed so far. In the frame of this study, passive sampling was carried out at ten locations in four libraries and archives. Despite the very variable sampling locations, no major differences were found, although air-filtered repositories were found to have lower concentrations while a non-ventilated newspaper repository exhibited the highest concentrations of volatile aldehydes (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, furfural and hexanal). Five employees in one institution were also provided with personal passive samplers to investigate employees' exposure to volatile aldehydes. All values were lower than the presently valid exposure limits. The concentration of volatile aldehydes, acetic acid, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in general was also compared with that of outdoor-generated pollutants. It was evident that inside the repository and particularly inside archival boxes, the concentration of VOCs and acetic acid was much higher than the concentration of outdoor-generated pollutants, which are otherwise more routinely studied in connection with heritage materials. This indicates that further work on the pro-degradative effect of VOCs on heritage materials is necessary and that monitoring of VOCs in heritage institutions should become more widespread.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2067-2073
Number of pages7
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2010


  • air quality
  • health and safety
  • indoor emission
  • paper degradation


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