Author retracts paper claiming formaldehyde levels in Hirst's work were dangerously high

It has been confirmed that there was never any risk to the public.

'Two Similar Swimming Forms in Endless Motion (Broken)' (1993)

© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

15 July 2016

A spokesperson for Science Ltd and Professor Pier Giorgio Righetti, one of the authors of "Remote sensing of formaldehyde fumes in indoor environments" said: "In April 2016, a Paper entitled "Remote sensing of formaldehyde fumes in indoor environments" (published as an 'Accepted Manuscript' in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Analytical Methods Journal) led to media coverage claiming Damien Hirst's formaldehyde artworks exhibited at the Tate Modern gallery in London in 2012 had been leaking high levels of formaldehyde fumes which potentially posed a health risk to the public.

“Mr Hirst’s company, Science Ltd, investigated the claims, in the process consulting with Professor of Physical Chemistry at Oxford University, Claire Vallance. Science Ltd and the authors of the Paper cooperated to conduct further tests on formaldehyde artworks using the equipment referred to in the Paper as well as commercially available equipment used by Science Ltd to test the presence of formaldehyde fumes.

“None of the tests showed readings of formaldehyde higher than 0.1 ppm (which is 0.05 ppm above the ambient background level of 0.05 ppm). The recommended maximum exposure level under legislation is 2 ppm. The cause of the discrepancy with the readings published in the Paper was identified and it was agreed that there cannot have been formaldehyde present at the dangerously high levels originally cited in the Paper and, accordingly, there was never any risk to the public.

“As a result of those tests, the corresponding author of the Paper has unreservedly acknowledged that the Paper is inaccurate and unreliable and has initiated the Journal's formal procedure for its complete retraction. Furthermore, he regrets any alarm or concern the Paper may have caused.”

Damien Hirst will not be conducting any interviews and has no additional comments.

Professor Righetti has no further comment to make beyond the above statement.