Air Pollutant Concentrations and Atmospheric Corrosion of Organ Pipes in European Church Environments

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Niklasson, Annika; Svensson, Jan-Erik; Langer, Sarka; Arrhenius, Karine; Rosell, Lars; Bergsten, Carl Johan; Johansson, Lars-Gunnar;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 53, Number 1, p.24-40 (2008)


The atmospheric environment inside and outside historical organs in several European regions is reported. In each region, comparisons were made between an instrument suffering organ pipe corrosion and an organ without reported corrosion problems. Concentrations of acetic acid (ethanoic acid), formic acid (methanoic acid), acetaldehyde (ethanal), formaldehyde (methanal) and other volatile organic compounds in the organ environment were determined using active sampling. Temperature and relative humidity were recorded. In addition, polished metal samples that mimic the material used in the historical organ pipes have been exposed in the organ wind systems for up to 22 months. High concentrations of acetic acid and formic acid vapours are present in the wind system of the corroded organs. Acetaldehyde and formaldehyde are also present in smaller amounts. The main source of acetic acid is the wood from which the wind system is built. In contrast, formic acid is generated in the church environment outside the wind system. The results show that the two organic acids play an important role in the atmospheric corrosion of organ pipes. It is suggested that the corrosion of lead pipes in historical organs can be effectively reduced by removing the sources of gaseous acetic acid and formic acid in the wind system and in the church environment.