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printech, February, 2002
Re: Heavy Metal in Inks

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From: Gary Jones (gjonesprinting@aol.com )
Date:Wed, 13 Feb 2002 17:32:10

Your question is about heavy metals in inks is one of the more popular questions that seem to arise when examining potential environmental impacts from printing. One of the more confusing aspects of the question is the definition of a heavy metal. Several definitions tend to identify Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Mercury, Antimony, Barium, Selenium, Silver, Nickel, Copper, and Arsenic as heavy metals. A heavy metal free ink would be one that would not contain any of the above listed metals.

 Achieving a true heavy metal free ink is quite difficult to accomplish. While most of the above metals are deliberately added to inks, they can be present in trace quantities as contaminants. Of the above metals, copper and barium is used quite extensively in blue and red inks as part of the base pigment.

The advantage of using a heavy metal free ink can be viewed from two perspectives. the first is from a safety perspective. There are regulations that limit the presence and amount of several of the above metals that cover food contact items and consumer products. So using heavy metal free inks allows compliance. From an environmental perspective, the advantage is that there are regulations specifying that inks with several of the above heavy metals above heavy metals in certain concentrations are to be handled and disposed as hazardous waste.

The other environmental concern is presence of the metals in printed matter that gets disposed. There is concern about the release of the metals into the environment from burning and landfilling. However, there are rules for incinerators and landfills that must be met, which minimized the release to the environment.

We have a fact sheet at http://www.pneac.org/sheets/litho/reduceheavymetalinks.pdf, which also provides some additional information.

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