Jun 3, 2008

The Acid Free/Lignin Free Issue

Early in the days of scrapbooking, new "buzz words" emerged and became part of our language. "Acid Free" and "Lignin Free" were terms we were all trained to look for whenever we bought new products.

But what do they truly mean - if anything? We *THINK* they mean that the products we buy are devoid of acid - a chemical usually used to extract the next thing - lignin -which is a pulpy part of wood that eventually breaks down and causes acid. But are they really? Despite what we've been taught, there is no legal definition of "Acid Free" or "Lignin Free" and no regulatory agency overseeing the supposed, yet non-existent, standards. So, A/F could mean,
  1. "No acid",
  2. "a little acid" or
  3. "we don't know, we're just going off what the manufacturer of our paper stock or the Chinese company who made our embellishments said."

I believe that number 3 is probably the culprit MOST of the time.

Then we had "CK OK" standards. Supposedly, somehow Creating Keepsakes was letting you know that this product was archivally safe. But, how did THEY know? Probably again, number 3 comes into play. To my knowledge, they certainly weren't dumping any money into testing the products.

In pondering this topic, I ran across an interesting article by HP. It's largely referring to their printer and photo paper, but it explains A/F and L/F and has some other great bits of information. You can find this PDF paper HERE

The Image Permanence Institute is another place you can find information about these issues. You can access their site HERE. It's pretty technical and not specific to the scrapbook industry, but one of the points I get out of the site is that light and humidity are MORE important to control than acid and lignin. But, saying this product is "light and humidity resistant" doesn't roll off the tongue quite as easily. And, in my opinion, there are more legal issues around those claims than the A/F and L/F so most smart people would be hesitant to make THOSE statements about their products unless they were prepared to prove it.

My take on it is that, really, MOST papers are fine and that your books don't NEED to last 200 years. I figure that my boys will take their own books. Their kids will scan them and each take a copy and my grandkids will take pages out that they like and my great grandkids will just want a few photos and then we'll be down to the hard-core genealogists who just want a photo of me and a few historical facts or entertaining "legends". I don't anticipate my books being kept in their full glory for more than a couple of generations.

Just scrap how you want to using the products you love.


Noreen said...

Hi Kim...I always enjoy your blog! Just wanted to comment on the issue of standards in the scrapbooking industry. You may have heard about the ISO - the International Standards Organization, which develops and governs standards in almost all industries. They DO have a standard to which photo-keeping products should be held up to, but as you said, there is no obligation for companies who manufacture scrapbooking prodcuts to do so. The standard is "ISO #18902", and I know that Creative Memories products are developed and manufactured to meet this standard. You can read about it here: http://www.creativememories.com/dcVault/Consumption/WCM010659/ISO18902.pdf
I also agree with you that you absolutely need to use the products that you love, not just the products that will last...although it's nice to know that some product lines do both!

As for your post about the "scrapmobile"...did you know that there IS such a thing in Edmonton, Alberta? (I'm from Calgary, but I read about it in Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine) It's called "Memories in Motion Scrapbooking" and you can read about it here: http://www.memoriesinmotionscrapbooking.com/
Great idea huh? And she is franchising it,too!
Have a great day...

Anonymous said...

I understand you comment "scrap the way you want to" but I think that will be the ultimate demise of the "scrapbook" industry. And, they will have taken a part in that demise.
Using "special" A/F L/F products is what the industry was built on -- using safe products for our photos and stories to stand the test of time. Local stores touted that everything in their store was "safe" and used that as an advertising advantage to big box craft chain stores.
Now we are all "artists" and are invited,by experts and local stores, to use "anything we want". Scrap celebs introduce product that they freely admit is not A/F.
How can we justify to a new scrapbooker to not use old fashioned "construction" paper at 89 cents for 24 sheets v. A/F L/F textured cardstock at 89 cents a SHEET? OR any old Crayola marker v. the "special" permanent, non-fading Zigs? (Okay - did I just tell my "scrappin' age by knowing about Zig markers?)
I mean .... we are artists and can use anything we want .... and now ScrapBiz says we don't care whether our photos last?
Please understand - I don't disagree with that philosophy -- I always said that if the faces were rubbed off the pictures on the day I died, then we enjoyed the pictures! But ... I'm not trying to build a financial future on a scrapbook store loaded with (expensive) "specialty" product.

Kim said...

I think you're trying too hard to read between the lines. What I'm saying is that we dwell too much on the A/F issue when light and humidity are the biggest issues. No one would want to use nasty construction paper - it's not light-fast nor fun. I bought "Acid Free" construction paper from Costco several years ago that faded right out to almost white sitting in my scrap studio.

We shouldn't worry about putting ticket stubs from a concert on a page because we are petrified that it might have acid on it. We SHOULD worry that our albums are stored in a bookcase near a window or next to the laundry room. There are more pressing issues than Acid and Lignin.

The businesses in the industry range from retailers selling mostly card stock and stickers for the simple scrappers to retailers that sell everything you can possibly think of because their customer base is interested in the artistic side of scrapping.

I don't think advocating that scrappers scrap how they want to is damaging to the industry. There is no right way to scrap. I think every scrapper needs to find their comfort level - even if that includes construction paper, Zig Pens and sticker sneeze. There's a retailer out there willing to play to that style and sell those products.

Sandra @ The Memory Workshop said...

I have no doubt that the majority of reputable and high profile scrapbooking manufacturers act with the best of intentions when it comes to the AF/LF issue, I don't see who is testing their claims or how the average consumer can verify them.

I used stickers about 5 years ago, from a well known manufacturer, that bled and faded in the places where they came in contact with another manufacturer's patterned paper (there was no noticeable change where they touched cardstock). So which was at fault? The stickers? The paper? The photos were unaffected, so does it ultimately matter?

The claim of ACID FREE is a marketing tactic. Its a scare tactic. We don't have alot of control over acid, but we sure can buy the products to help us avoid it at all costs! But what about the other dangers to your photos and albums?

Acid is not the worst thing that could happen to your photos. Humidity, temperature fluctuations, sunlight, dust, body oils (fingerprints) and excess handling will do more damage in less time than acid can. Just keeping your photos in a box and flipping through them repeatedly could do more damage than a hint of acid from an embellishment. Keeping your photos in an AF/LF album won't protect them from your damp basement or kid's grimy fingers.

Everyone has their own "acid tolerance level". A little common sense goes a long way.