Protective clothing/gear

Images and text by Garry Harrison,
Head, Circulating Collections Conservation,
Indiana University Libraries Preservation Department

Protective clothing/gear

The disaster site may be a source of staining. For example, the covers of wet books may shed substantial amounts of color. Latex gloves and plastic aprons may be worn to keep clothes and hands dry and to avoid staining. Latex gloves may also be worn to shield against contaminants such as mold.

In the case of fire damage, cotton gloves may be necessary to protect both the hands and materials from the smearing of soot, the staining capacity of which is usually highly concentrated. Those of the type shown are more supple than standard work gloves and allow the agile handling of fragile materials.

Masks and eye protection (not shown) may be necessary if the disaster site is the source of dust or soot. A simple fibrous/paper type mask (two varieties shown) is often effective. In more extreme cases a cartridge-type respirator may be needed. Cartridges for these are made for several different contaminants, so full attention must be given to the matter of ascertaining that the cartridge is of the correct type for the problem at hand. Cartridges are not permanent; their effective functionality diminishes with use, and they must be replaced before the end of their service life.

If the airborne contaminant involved is other than dust or soot, it is approached with the utmost of caution. Heavy mold infestation can be a severe health hazard, and in extreme cases, removal of materials from the disaster site may be the work of an abatement team equipped with total-body protection and self-contained breathing apparatus such as those of the PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) type. If the disaster is a fire, it may be necessary to wait until the site has been exhausted of toxic fumes and ventilated with fresh air, depending on what has burned. In any case, the safety of humans is always the first consideration; no risks are ever to be taken.

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