Control Museum Pollutants With Source Elimination Measures

Museum operators not only have to create a healthy environment for employees and patrons, they have to establish a quality environment for the protection of valuable, irreplaceable collections.

Maintaining high quality indoor air is difficult for all building operators, however, museums pose an even greater challenge. Museum operators not only have to create a healthy environment for employees and patrons, they have to establish a quality environment for the protection of valuable, irreplaceable collections.

In order to provide a proper environment, operators first have to understand what problems and potential pollution sources they are up against. Operators must not only watch for internally generated pollutant sources, including their patrons, but they must also be mindful of external pollutants.

Harmful internal pollutants include biofluents, volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde contaminants from building materials and furnishings. In new construction, the levels of contaminants generated from new furnishings or construction materials often are at elevated levels and care must be taken to keep them at a minimal level.

In many cases, operators will try to control internal pollutants by introducing more outside air into the space. While this might be an acceptable control measure for some buildings, this solution could introduce more potentially harmful contaminants that will ultimately damage museum collections. In urban areas, outdoor peak levels of ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and hydrocarbons are often 40% to 100% above allowable limits. These contaminants are often responsible for the slow degradation of valuable artifacts.

To ensure that the indoor environment in museums is acceptable for occupants and collections, molecular filtration is the best option. When selecting a molecular filtration system, there are numerous options available in both types of adsorbent / chemisorbent media along with the hardware that holds the media. The best selection for a particular application will depend upon a variety of factors:

  • Physical space
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Types of contaminants present, and the concentration
  • Temperature and humidity
  • Amount of air to be treated

Operators generally have media choices.  The most common is a standard activated carbon or a blend of carbon and potassium permanganate. The standard activated carbon system will remove ozone, nitrogen dioxide and higher molecular weight volatile organic compounds. These systems have been successfully used over the years and provide the benefit of regeneration. However, in instances where higher levels of formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide are suspected, the better choice would be a blend of carbon and potassium permanganate. The potassium permanganate product readily reacts with the formaldehyde, sulfur dioxide, and other lower molecular weight contaminants to remove them from the air stream giving an added measure of protection.

Selecting the right filtration system and filter media is important. If you have questions, our Application Engineers have the answers to support your decision making process. We want to help you select the proper equipment and media—together, Cleaning the Air you Breathe.