I've worked in information management for 20 years and I've seen a

     1) When unpacking some archival records from Africa, there was a
     large, albeit flattened and dead, arachnid -- I think -- that was the
     size of my hand. Thank God for fumigation!

     2) A grad student doing some archives processing for me picked up a
     box to move to a cart and noticed some yellow powder leave a trail
     across her shoes. It turned out to be yellow cake, a form of uranium,
     that someone had cleverly used in a display piece. Remember the scene
     from Silkwood where the guys come in covered from head to toe in white
     suits? It's all true...

     3) When closing a branch, I went out to get their records ready to
     ship to us. I spent five 12-hour days in the hottest, dust covered,
     vermin-crawling warehouse mezzanine I had ever been in. I came back
     covered in tiny blisters which the doctor said were caused because I
     was so allergic to the environment it was the only way my body could
     release the toxins.

     4) We discovered some historical records kept in an old building. We
     ended up hiring a consultant to assess them (with mask and attendant
     white suit) as they were COVERED in pidgeon droppings -- very, very
     toxic stuff!

     5) We knew the paint chips hanging off the walls in some parts of our
     storage areas were lead paint chips. We figured as long as we weren't
     into eating them, we'd be fine. What we later discovered was that the
     paint also covered some asbestos material that hadn't been abated.

     So, one should always exercise caution in our business! You never know
     what you might run into! I know people in our field who developed
     environmental sensitivity syndrome. Compensation plans and employers
     don't want to believe it exists, but it does, and it is becoming more
     and more common.

     Dianne Hagan
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