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  1. ITV Report

Damien Hirst artworks leaked potentially-dangerous gas, scientists claim

Damien Hirst next to one of his controversial artworks. Credit: Konstantin Chernichkin

British artist Damien Hirst's most iconic artworks leaked potentially-dangerous formaldehyde gas during an exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in London, according to scientists.

Researchers tested a new sensor for the remote detection of formaldehyde gas during the 2012 exhibition, and found levels above legal limits, according to a study in the Analytical Methods journal.

It has been found that the tanks are surrounded by formaldehyde fumes, constantly exuded in the atmosphere (likely via the sealant), reaching levels of five ppm (parts per million), one order of magnitude higher than the 0.5 ppm limit set up by legislation.

– Analytical Methods abstract
A visitor views Credit: Toby Melville

One piece that emitted high levels of the gas was "Away From the Flock", created in 1994, which showed a lamb preserved in formaldehyde solution.

Another that was shown to have emitted the gas was "Mother and Child (Divided)", a 1993 work of boxes containing a calf and cow, each bissected.

Pier Giorgio Righetti, who led the study, said in a statement: "We do not believe that our findings suggest any risk to visitors at Tate Modern."

A spokesperson for Damien Hirst's company Science Ltd told ITV News: "We do regular testing and our experts tell us that at the levels reported your eyes would be streaming and you would be in serious physical discomfort.

"No such complaints were made to us during the show – or at any other shows featuring the formaldehyde works. We don’t believe any risk was posed to the public."