Chemical air filtration in archives and libraries reconsidered

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Giovanna Di Pietro; Frank Ligterink; Henk Porck; Gerrit de Bruin;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number 5, p.245-254 (2016)


The implementation of chemical filtration in air-conditioning systems in archive and library repositories has become standard practice for heritage institutions in many countries. This practice is codified in official standards with general reference to a substantial body of scientific publications on the effects of air pollutants on paper materials. In this paper we report the application of a well-established decision analysis approach elaborating an integral cost-benefit perspective to provide decision support to four European national heritage institutions confronted with dilemmas in connection to chemical air filtration. Available scientific evidence for air pollution induced damage of paper material is reviewed and weighed against financial and environmental costs of air pollution control. Exposure of paper to both indoor and outdoor generated air pollutants at typical concentration levels observed within storage areas is expected to cause minimal to no additional yellowing and embrittlement, while the costs of chemical air filtration are significant. From a cost-benefit perspective the use of chemical air filtration in typical library and archive repositories is therefore discouraged.