Saving Mona Lisa: Eliminate Indoor Air Pollution

Eradicate indoor air pollution in order to preserve precious works of art

Eradicate indoor air pollution in order to preserve precious works of art

In the art conservation industry, professional painting conservators will tell you that regardless of the monetary worth of your artifact, indoor air pollution will, at some point, negatively affect the intrinsic value of the piece. In fact, as soon as an artist finishes his or her creation, aging and deterioration begin. (1) Whether it’s fine art or a painting that is merely decorative, an object’s curator must be prepared to protect it.

Almost any surface – textile, fabric, wood or paper – can be used as a base for paint. Artists most often use paper or canvas and with both materials, there is a natural aging process. Even if meticulous care is given to a particular painting, deterioration will inevitably take place.

Degeneration of painted works of art occurs due to a number of factors, including moisture, heat, light, indoor air pollution and pests. Damage can be sudden or transpire over a long period of time. Some factors, like heat and light, can be addressed from the outset with specialized resources. And if pests are discovered, control efforts can be employed. But issues such as pollution and poor indoor air quality are more insidious due to the fact that fumes and gasses cannot be seen. Airborne pollutants can originate from sources in the atmosphere or from emissive products and objects. Many conventional paints, for example, emit gaseous VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as formaldehyde. (2) And numerous products used to clean paintings, such as methyl ethyl ketone and acetone, are toxic.

Because of this ongoing threat, the work of painting conservators is hugely important. Art conservation includes the cleaning, preserving and repairing of works of art in addition to ethical mindfulness and scientific consideration. Within this specialized industry, those who work in preservation deal with controlling agents of deterioration such as humidity, temperature, pests, light, and dust and air pollution. Those who work on the restoration end care less about a painting’s history and more about aesthetics; about making a piece look new and polished while appearing to look original. For example, restoration can include repairing an item that has suffered paint loss, a weakened canvas, tears or other damage. Conserving preserves the structural stability and visual appearance, such as removing old varnish, repairing a torn canvas or securing flaking paint. (3)

Take the National Gallery’s collection, for example. There are upwards of 4,000 paintings, all created with varying types of enamels, oils, glues and wax. The art conservators on staff work around the clock to preserve and restore their paintings from the effects of pollutants and age. (4)

Broadly defined, a pollutant is a substance that has a detrimental effect on the environment and can cause harm to a person or object (including the health of a living thing). Impurities can be generated in or out but typically do the most damage when they are produced and located indoors. Airborne pollutants continue to challenge art conservators due to the fact that they are often invisible and signs of contamination do not appear until after damage has occurred. (5)

But art conservators have tools to combat poor indoor air quality in the form of pollution removal systems such as our bench-top and wall-mount source capture systems both of which provide the ultimate combination of consistent airflow along with superior filtration all in a compact design.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our painting conservation customers by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems create clean air to protect valuable works of art so that people can continue to enjoy them for many years to come.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.