Portable X-ray fluorescence analysis of pesticides in the textile collection at the German Historical Museum, Berlin

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Krug, Sonja; Hahn, Oliver;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 59, Number 6, p.355-366 (2014)


The majority of the objects found in the textiles collection at the German Historical Museum in Berlin have been treated with different biocides at various points in the past. Prior to this study, the presence of organochlorinated pesticides in rooms and storage cabinets had already been proven in an analysis of air samples that employed gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. To estimate the risks these toxins pose to both collections and museum staff, we conducted a field study with the help of a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. In this study, we present an attempt at a reliable quantitative analysis. In addition to chlorine, other potentially hazardous elements such as lead, arsenic, and mercury were found in the majority of the objects. In some cases, however, it has to be taken into account that the detected elements might have originated from manufacturing processes rather than biocide treatments. Such knowledge is a crucial prerequisite to proper risk prediction.