Measuring mercury emissions from cinnabar lacquer objects

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Donna Strahan; Masahiko Tsukada;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number sup3, p.166-172 (2016)


This paper presents the results of a study on mercury emissions from Asian lacquer objects containing the red pigment cinnabar, also known as vermilion, which is mercury (II) sulfide. Initial tests for mercury vapor emission from a variety of lacquer objects were carried out using mercury- indicating powder, while more accurate measurements were made with a mercury vapor meter. The emissions were compared to American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. The results revealed that cinnabar lacquer objects emitted a small amount of mercury vapor, that this could accumulate in enclosed spaces, and that under certain conditions, objects and storage containers housed near cinnabar lacquers may become contaminated. Recommended methods and guidelines for storing, treating, and handling cinnabar lacquers are provided.