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An Aerosol, or Particulate contaminant. Pollutants are generated by natural and man-made sources, such as decomposition, abrasion, or combustion. Pollutants may be damaging or toxic to the environment, people, and materials. Currently the pollutants with the highest outdoor concentrations generally occur in big cities (Nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, Ozone, Carbon monoxide, particulates) or near smoke stacks (Sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides). Very dense Haze, or combination of smoke and fog, is called smog. Indoor air pollutants (organic acids, aldehydes, hydrocarbons, ozone, particulates, etc) are emitted from construction materials (wood, insulation, carpets, paints), office machines (copiers, printers) or are transported inside from the outdoor environment. Once inside a museum, pollutants can deposit and interact deleteriously with museum materials. The concentration of air pollutants may be decreased by minimizing sources or by reacting or absorbing the pollutants from the air. Scavengers provide one method to minimize the concentration of air pollutants in contained spaces.

Comparison table of aerosol pollutants modified from Canosa and Norrehed (2019).

Pollutant Sources Collection Risks
Sulfur dioxide; sulfuric acid Fuel combustion, pulp and paper production, biological activity, pyrite oxidation, vulcanized rubber, proteinaceous materials inside enclosures Metal corrosion, dye fading, cellulose embrittlement, photograph deterioration, leather red-rot, pigment darkening, reaction with calcareous materials
Ozone Smog, photocopiers, laser printers, electrostatic particle filters; UV light sources, arc welders Rubber, cellulose and protein embrittlement, dye, ink and pigment discoloration, photograph and book deterioration
Nitrogen oxides; nitric acid Biological processes, fuel combustion, cellulose nitrate decomposition, tobacco smoke, photocopiers Cellulose and protein embrittlement, dye, ink and pigment discoloration, photographic film deterioration
Sulfides; hydrogen sulfide Fuel combustion, humans, natural gas, marshes, volcanoes, wool, silk, felt, furs, vulcanized rubber, waterlogged archaeological organic materials, pyrite collections Metal corrosion, photograph silver mirroring and redox spots, leather red-rot, lead pigment darkening, stone deterioration; paper and fabric discoloration
Acetaldehyde; acetic acid Fuel combustion; wood (especially oak, cedar, etc.) and wood products, biological processes, PVC flooring, laminated materials, paints, adhesives, sealants, tobacco smoke, cellulose acetate decomposition; acetaldehyde is a precursor of acetic acid Metal corrosion, reaction with calcareous materials, cellulose and protein embrittlement, degradation of soda-rich glass, enamels, and pigments; acidification of paper
Formaldehyde; formic acid Fuel combustion, wood and wood products, resins, oil-based paints, natural history specimens, fiberglass, photocopiers, textiles, construction materials, PVC carpeting, laminates, tobacco smoke, gas ovens, adhesives, sealants; formaldehyde is a precursor of formic acid Metal corrosion, reaction with calcareous materials, cellulose and, protein embrittlement, discoloration of dyes, pigments, and textiles; acidification of paper
Particulates Combustion residues (soot, smog, smoke, flyash), construction (roads, buildings, vehicles), humans (proteins), fibers (lint), biological specimens (spores, pollen), soil (dust, salt) Some objects are difficult to clean (feathers, minerals, microcracks, sticky objects, etc.); Dust can cause disfiguration of objects, attract pests, and scratch soft surfaces by friction.
Water vapor Water vapor from visitors, water-based paints, and adhesives, wet cleaning activities and outdoor environment; Can produce both physical and chemical deterioration; fluctuations can damage wood products; hydrolysis of cellulosic materials including cellulose acetate and cellulose nitrate; objects with salts, gelatin, natural varnish are susceptible; causes oxides to convert to acids

Synonyms and Related Terms

pollutants; air pollutants; pollution

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