Health Concerns with Old Books?

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NotSoSilent

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Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 7:30 am

Like many of you, I own and read books about early Hollywood. They are not all new and some are not in the best of condition (antique store finds, etc.). Although readable, some of these books have dark spots, water stains, “crusty” pages, etc. So, as you can imagine, as my collection grew, so did the musty smell that comes with having older titles.

This got me thinking about the health impact of having books like this in my personal library. I have heard about “librarian lung disease” and other health issues associated with old, dusty, moldy, or mildewed books, which got me a little worried. However, before I overreact and toss books that I enjoy owning, has anyone else had a similar concern? And if so, is there an effective way to clean AND sanitize old books?
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missdupont

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 8:19 am

You have much more health problems from old films, breathing vinegar deterioration or handling deteriorating film than you do from books. As long as you're dusting, you should have nothing to fear. I've worked in libraries all my life, as a volunteer and as staff, and never had problems, including in places with closed stacks where books were not dusted. I had more problems working and handlling deteriorating and sticky photo negatives and breathing both nitrate and safety deterioration smells than anything associated with books.
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boblipton

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 8:50 am

Other than suggesting that you don't swallow these books and that wearing a face mask when you dust them might be a good idea, I think that the CDC is a bunch of hysterical morons.

I think that health advice like "Don't forget to breathe or you'll die" is more important.

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Mark Zimmer

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 10:22 am

Books can be subject to mildew if in a humid spot; inhaling that isn't good for you, especially if you are sensitive to molds. But by and large they're not a significant concern.
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Frederica

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostFri Jul 29, 2016 12:28 pm

boblipton wrote:Other than suggesting that you don't swallow these books and that wearing a face mask when you dust them might be a good idea, I think that the CDC is a bunch of hysterical morons.
Bob


They're not, and not sure why you brought them up to begin with, they weren't mentioned originally.

Besides the previously mentioned mildew, any paper attracts paper mites and that might be a problem for allergy or asthma sufferers.

Biblio has information on cleaning books here:
http://www.biblio.com/book-collecting/c ... ing-books/" target="_blank

You might also consider getting brodarts or mylar bags for your older or more valuable books. That will protect the covers/paper and should protect anyone who is sensitive to dust/mites/bits of degrading paper.
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telical

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 9:06 am

I deal with old books a lot and I have a full sized dehumidifier and an ozone generator. I only use the ozone generator sparingly as it can be dangerous, although I notice sometimes when I open the window, the smell is the same if I leave the ozone generator on in a room away from me. Books that are mildewed I usually don't bring in the house at all, if so, enclosing them in a bag which I've gently sprayed some lysol. I have a separate cottage that I can put the book and ozone generator surrounded by a large bag, and this eventually gets the mildew out. Some people will paint badly foxed book edges with diluted bleach water, and while this is done in some ways by archivists, it can damage both the book and the value of it. Sandpapering the edge of a foxed book will also remove some of the foxing. It all depends on how much of a purist you want to be.
Last edited by telical on Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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NotSoSilent

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 1:02 pm

Thank you everyone for your input and advice. I took my three oldest books, ranging from 1895 to 1915, and put them in a Ziploc bag. I realize this is only a short-term solution, but this small act alone tempered the musty smell. With my Hollywood books from the 1970s, I tossed one of the dust jackets, which I should have done when I originally got it - it was just plain nasty. I now have only four out of my entire collection that I am on the fence about.

Frederica wrote: Biblio has information on cleaning books here:
http://www.biblio.com/book-collecting/c ... ing-books/" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank


Thanks for the link, Frederica. I will try to clean them and see if that works. I found a similar page on their website when I did my initial online research: http://www.biblio.com/book-collecting/c ... ld-mildew/" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
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Jim Roots

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSat Jul 30, 2016 1:09 pm

There is nothing so sublime, so serene, so stress-dissolving as walking into a used bookstore and taking one deep breath of the soul of old books.

Jim
(an old books soul)
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Brooksie

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSun Jul 31, 2016 2:31 am

I once had a bookcase in a poorly ventilated hallway and located too close to the bathroom. This resulted in some mold and foxing on the edges of the pages. I found that spraying vinegar and brushing with a soft toothbrush helped, particularly with the musty smell. Yes, it will temporarily be replaced by a vinegary smell, but it only lasts a day or two. I would not recommend it on anything too old or valuable, but for a bunch of film quartos from the 70s and 80s, it worked pretty well.
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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostTue Aug 02, 2016 7:52 am

Our local historical group uses kitty litter to remove mold and musty smells from old books.

Put the book in a small clean open bag. Than place it in a larger plastic bag with the kitty litter in the bottom. Seal the outer bag tightly and let it set for a few weeks. It will remove all the smells from the book. Some books may have to be treated a second time with fresh kitty litter. I've used this method many times and it works well.

John
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Ludi

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostTue Aug 02, 2016 6:30 pm

I love that old book smell.
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NotSoSilent

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSat Nov 26, 2016 12:19 pm

I ended-up using a tip I found on YouTube where you put your books in a large Ziploc bag with some baking soda and freeze them. It sounds crazy but worked beautifully. Here is the video:

Last edited by silentfilm on Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Embedded YouTube link
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Ray Faiola

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostWed Nov 30, 2016 10:47 am

Well, if my cigars don't kill my books or my 16mm prints or my posters or pressbooks, then...oh heck. You only live once! And you won't catch ME living to 117 on two raw eggs a day. You call that LIVING?

I just got a copy of SAM 'N' HENRY by Goodsen and Correll. Now that book CAN'T be healthy!!
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSun Dec 18, 2016 1:26 pm

A few years back, I had a rather substantial donation to my bookshop from a chap who was downsizing. He was a hundred-a-day chap in his mid-eighties, and quite a few of the the books were unusually interesting. I passed a number on to a pal for online selling and he commented that the cataloguing made his eyes water!

In addition when I was starting-up (I shall have had the shop 30 years next April) I had a house call after the owner had died. The place was very smelly, but there were some good titles worth buying. However I had to put them to one side, but the aroma subsided after a few weeks. And of course even with new books you don't know if a previous handler has unsavoury personal habits...
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Harlowgold

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostSun Feb 26, 2017 3:22 pm

Ludi wrote:I love that old book smell.

The trouble is many people confuse "old book smell" with "mold smell" which is quite different and much less pleasant. It's tough to sell anything valuable online with "old book smell" because some will insist it reeks of mold and want a refund, a major reason I've given up selling rarities (or anything now, for that matter) on ebay.
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Penfold

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Re: Health Concerns with Old Books?

PostTue Feb 28, 2017 7:30 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:A few years back, I had a rather substantial donation to my bookshop from a chap who was downsizing. He was a hundred-a-day chap in his mid-eighties, and quite a few of the the books were unusually interesting.


That's a serious book habit.......... :D
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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