Concern over EU plan to require new permits for the handling of lead - Museums Association

Concern over EU plan to require new permits for the handling of lead

Initiative would make lead a substance subject to special authorisation
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Stained glass collections and many other areas of museum work would be affected by the initiative
Stained glass collections and many other areas of museum work would be affected by the initiative Pixabay

Museum professionals are among those raising urgent concerns about an “incomprehensible” initiative from the European Chemicals Agency to add lead in all its forms to Appendix XIV, its list of substances subject to special authorisation.

The proposal would mean that authorisation would be required for each use of the material, including production, processing and storage.

The International Scientific Committee for the Restoration and Conservation of Stained Glass, overseen by the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) and the International Council of Monuments and Sites (Icomos), is one of the bodies objecting to the proposal.

The committee said: “In the case of new or historic stained glass and leaded glass, this means that neither the manufacture, nor the conservation, nor the storage or presentation, e.g. in a museum, would any longer be possible without a special permit. While the UK may no longer be a member of the EU, this action would undoubtedly have a major impact far beyond the borders of the European Union.

The statement added: “At first, this news sounds like an internet fake. However, it unfortunately corresponds to the facts.”

The proposal could impact collections and many other areas of museum activity, including archaeological metal work and departments utilising x-radiography.

Members of the Institute of Conservation have been urged to object to the plans, and Icomos itself has submitted a separate objection. A public consultation on the initiative has now closed.

Comments (1)

  1. Clare Herbert says:

    This could have an impact on almost all Museums and art galleries – lead has been used in all sorts of materials over several thousand years. There is a potential for lead to be in paint (both works of art and painted objects), pewter, glass, glazed pottery, any soldered materials as well as the obvious pipes and toys. Unfortunately this initiative was only picked up by stained glass conservators – as a mining museum predominantly focused on lead mining we only became aware a couple of days before the deadline. As we are no longer part of Europe we are hoping that should this initiative go ahead we would be able to appeal to Parliament to not impose it in England. Otherwise all of our Museums will provide a poorer service to visitors as our handling collections will certainly be decimated or worse. Clare Herbert Museum Manager of the Peak District Mining Museum.

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