, Th'e'qiestions Ive tried to answerfin the NeWs from the Preservation Office
'seem a'form of management by crisis. .How do you kill mold?".--,like "So
what do you 'd6with a wet book?" seems to disregard a more important
. concei-n "Howi cani'mbld growth be prevented?" I intend to alarm you. The.
SMold Monster is lurking in your home and office, and is awaiting its chance to
take orif the world. I know'that measures to kill mold do little.more than
retard its gr6Voth. "Dead" mold spores regularly rise up from the dead. .Mold
Sis ETERNAL'and cannot be killed. .;; ..
SMeasires i iich attempt to "kill" mold include blast freezing, fumigation
anrd radiation' treatments: Blast freezing is the measure currently most
favored. It's harmless to humans but apparently effective, as well as quick
and easy. Your home frdezer will take too lohg for use; besides, would you
want a moldy book next to your steak? Mold infested items, instead, are
placed.in a blast freezer, where temperatures drop from 750 F. to -30 F. in a
matter of hours. After a day or so, the infestation is "dead". By "dead" I
mean'"stopped", and only stopped.: Some years ago, scientists in Antarctica
discovered rfold colonies encased in ice formed at well below -30 F. Upon.
melting the ice, they found that the mold could be brought back to life with a
-bit of heat. So, what happens the next time that previously infected item
gets just a bit damp and the temperature rises? Yep! That's right. Born-again
mold, holding'a revival meeting.
Fumigation would be the most favored measure if it weren't so deadly to
humans. Mold infested items are placed in a fumigation chamber and treated
with chemicals. Ethylene Oxide is the best chemical, and the only one the
government has approved for use. It'll kill anything! -- including people.
Chemicals are pumped into the chamber either at high pressure or with heat,
allowing them to enter the item evenly and completely. This results in a
chemical reaction which "kills" mold., The problem with chemicals --
assuming you survive their use long enough to worry about their long-term
effects is that they're just on vacation. Chemicals "volatilize" -- i.e., go
packing, -- over time. Unless the chemical make-up of mold is significantly
altered during fumigation, the previously infested item could be Moldsville in
a matter of time.
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Radiation is a measure which offers hope. There are a number of kind
radiation: alpha, beta, gamma, ...; also: infrared, visible, ultraviolet,
ray. Light is a form of visible radiation. The safest way tostop mold gro
is to place it in a hot, dry area with direct sunlight. Mold is more bat than
vampire, however. Light just puts it to sleep. Higher forms of radiation are
required. Don't go rushing off to your microwave though. The microwave may
cook your steak quicker than sunshine, but it won't give the Mold Monster as
much as a tan. Only radiation created by radioactive elements will do the
trick. This type of radiation alters the atomic structure of mold to actually
kill it. Too bad it kills.people too, huh?
Let's face it, We're doomed. Mold spores are everywhere. Mold growth,
however, can be prevented; and each of us has a part to play in preservation
'through prevention of that growth. Here's what you can do:
First, keep temperatures as cool as comfort allows. Most mold grows when
temperatures are above 750 F. Remember, temperature often fluctuates
whether we want it to or not. 70 F. provides a 5 buffer. If temperature still
goes higher, use a fan to keep air-moving. Mold finds it hard to grow in moving
Second, keep relative humidity (RH) to about 50 %. Mold grows when RH is
above 65%. Use a dehumidifier if necessary. It's often difficult to measure
RH. If the air feels damp to you, it's too damp for archival and library
materials. Borrow or order a sling psychrometer for your collection (price:
$39). This instrument measures temperature and RH. Remember; mold only
needs heat and moisture to grow.
SThird, stick to good housekeeping. Mold spores set up house indust, waiting
*for the right temperature and RH. Dust or vacuum collection regularly. Send
shelves into the stacks with a dust cloth when reshelving. Even if only one
spot is dusted, that's one spot less mold can call "home"'. The Preservation
Office has a vacuum which can be borrowed. '
'Fourth, keep greasy and oily hands away from archival and library
:materials. Wash your hands if necessary. Grease and oil deposits provide
mold with food, as well as something to stick to. Teach yourself and patrons 'to
avoid eating while using these materials. Food leaves oil deposits on hands
which are then transferred to everything touched. Remember, food is food for
moldkind and mankind'alike.
Fifth, call the Preservation Office (392-0348) for help, if you've done all
you can do and mold breaks out anyway. We have procedures for mold clean-
Each of us can do something to STOP THE MOLD MONSTER. ."Lat us nat
mowlcn thus in ydelnesse," Chaucer said 500 years ago, meaning "A rolling
stone gathers no moss." The attention you pay to the materials you work with
may save us from crisis and Mold Monster both.,