If you’ve never before clocked the iconic works of Brit artist Damien Hirst, they’re pretty batshit: he’s particularly famous for his ‘pickled’ animals, displaying fully-preserved sharks, cows and sheep in giant tanks in the world’s biggest museums.

But scientists have discovered that the pieces shown as part of his 2012 Turner Prize-winning “Mother and Child Divided” installation at London’s Tate Modern gallery leaked dangerous fumes, namely formaldehyde gas (the preserving solution). 

A new sensor for the remote detection of the carcinogenic gas confirmed that leakage from the tanks reached 5ppm (that’s parts per million for non-nerds), an amount 10x higher than the safe limit.

Welp, Damien Hirst’s Formaldehyde Animal Art Leaks Cancer-Causing Fumes

“It should be noted the maximum FA (formaldehyde) level tolerated by regulatory agencies in the air of a room should be no higher than 0.5ppm,” read the report, published in a Royal Society of Chemistry journal. 

The bisected corpses of a cow and calf in closed tanks, as well as a whole sheep, were viewed by thousands over the course of the exhibit’s 5-month-long run, which is v. concerning given formaldehyde’s links to asthma / cancer.

‘Away from the Flock’ (1994) is now on display at the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney. The touring exhibition, ARTIST ROOMS, includes Hirst’s work alongside a series of the artist’s earlier collages. (Photo by Prudence Cuming Associates) #formaldehyde #PierArtsCentre #ArtistRooms

A photo posted by Damien Hirst (@damienhirst) on

Tate Modern insists that it “always puts the safety of its staff and visitors first”.

“We take all necessary precautions when installing and displaying our exhibitions,” a spokesperson said of the findings. “These works contained a very dilute formaldehyde solution that was contained within sealed tanks.” 

It’s not the first time the museum has found itself in hot water over OHS issues; in 2010, an exhibition of Chinese visionary Ai Weiwei‘s work had to be closed when the dust from millions of ceramic sunflower seeds on display was found to be potentially carcinogenic.

Source: The Independent.

Photo: Instagram / @damienhirst.