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We were alerted about an impending hazard for poster collectors who ship any type of posters through the US Post Office.

Because of the terrorist problems, the Post Office has adopted and is in the process of implementing a system called 'Electron Irradiation' of mail being shipped.

This process is used to eliminate germs etc. in large quantities of mail at a time.
From what we have been able to gather, this will primarily be done in the major facilities that handle the largest amounts of bulk, which makes sense.

The Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education put out an early examination report on the results.

They state "the irradiated mail exhibits definite yellowing.." and go on to state, "The color shift is not necessarily immediate and can occur over time. This indicates that the initial irradiation induces the formation of unstable intermediates, such as peroxides, that continue to
breakdown after the irradiation process is over.

In other words, the damage caused by this process is on-going, and will continue long after the material is out of "harms way".

Even though they make the statement, "Common inks present on irradiated papers do not seem to change color although the study is still ongoing.".
Posters do not contain many 'common inks'.

Another section of the report states,
"Analyses of the soluble material in irradiated and unirradiated
samples of the same paper show an increase in the amounts of degradation products. The distribution of
products is very different from that seen in naturally aged materials. The amount of glucose, specifically, is not
greatly increased. This shows that the damage is due to reactions other than hydrolysis, which is the primary
reaction during the natural aging of cellulose. The relatively small amounts of soluble degradation products
probably do not account for the large loss of strength observed, indicating that the changes are most likely due
to radiation induced crosslinking.

We have been told that studies like this are being used to adjust and modify the usage of the system.

We have also been told from several different people but have NOT been able to confirm... that it increases the disintegration of paper approximately 10 TIMES THE NORMAL RATE. AND WHAT'S WORSE IS THAT IT'S IRREVERSIBLE. We've also been told that it could even be more hazardous to linen backing.

One of the major problems is that it's extremely difficult to get precise information about how, when and where, they are going to utilize it. This is completely understandable from the standpoint of National Security, but should cause concern to any collector that ships any poster of value.

We are in the process of gathering information from a variety of directions but felt that this would be important enough that we wanted to alert everyone about what was going on.

Here's some other preliminary info that we've acquired.

*UPS is supposedly looking at the same procedure for installation at their major facilities

*Fed-Ex has said that they don't have any plans to install such a program because their systems are completely different. They made an indication that they were going to do something but wouldn't give any more info at this time.

According to a press release issued by the USPS, NOT ALL MAIL will be subjected to this process. However, there is no way to determine what mail will be put through this process. Needless to say, the USPS WILL NOT GIVE ANY SPECIFICS -- for obvious reasons.

Of course, there's a lot more that needs to be evaluated as the Post Office tries to implement the system. But we felt the need to alert anyone that ships posters regularly without trying to cause a panic. It would be worth the time to look at shipping alternatives.

We plan to continue to press for more information and will be posting updates as we receive them.

** thanks to the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education and the
American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) for their information.

**and a special thanks to John Davis, President and CEO of POSTER MOUNTAIN
Inc. (poster conservator for the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Universal Studios Archive and M.G.M.) for his alert and help in presenting this information.


For some reason, these reports have NOT reached the public. Thank goodness John Davis alerted us to the installation of this equipment.




The Post Office hasn't put out an official notice since this one.


USPS BULLETIN - 10/29/01

USPS BULLETIN - 10/27/01