Printech Archive
Hazards of press cleaners

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Date: Wed Sep 29 1999 - 10:56:40 CDT


It is not apparent what type of printing process your
cleaner has been designed to clean. I am most familiar with the lithographic
printing process, remarks are focused on that type of printing.

To date, there are no national standards that have been issued for cleaners
used in lithographic printing. EPA came close when it released a draft
Control Techniques Guideline for Offset Lithography in 1993 and a
supplemental document called Alternative Techniques Guideline for Offset
Lithography in 1994. Both documents suggest that acceptable cleaners fall
into one of two categories. The first is one that contains 30% by weight VOC.
The second allows for 100% VOC, but establishes a vapor pressure limit of 10
mm Hg at 20oC for the VOC in the cleaner.

If you are looking for limits that have been established and are enforceable,
you need to look at each individual state/local air pollution control agency.
Not all states/local agencies have established limits for cleaners. For those
that have, they have thresholds for the size of business that must use the
cleaners and have used EPA's two documents as the basis for the limits. While
there is some deviation on either VOC content or vapor pressure, if your wash
meets EPA's suggestions, then you should be in a good position.

Besides meeting either one of EPA's limits, there are several chemicals that
should be avoided. Of course, all known or suspected human carcinogens should
not be utilized. One such example would be methylene chloride. Those
chemicals considered ozone depleting substances should not be used. Many
Class I and II ozone depleting substances are now under a manufacturing ban
and their availability is becoming limited. One such example is

Solvents that result in products with low flashpoints, those below 100oF, and
ideally below 140o to avoid flammability and hazardous waste designations,
respectively, should also not be used. There is a new emerging issue called
endocrine modifiers, that needs to be considered. Endocrine modifiers are
those chemicals, when ingested, mimic hormones and other biologically active
chemicals such as enzymes and can cause adverse outcomes in living things.
There is no definitive list of these chemicals, but some are known and others
are highly suspected.

The use of Hazardous Air Pollutants should also be avoided. There is a list
of 188 chemicals and chemical categories that are on EPA's "hit list" for
regulation. You need to be using Method 24 for VOC content determination.

All chemicals used in any new product need to be checked against EPA's list
of approved chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act. All new
chemicals either manufactured or imported into the US must be reviewed and
approved by EPA. EPA maintains a list of approved chemicals.

I hope this answers your question. Let me know if you need more information.

Gary Jones
Graphic Arts Technical Foundation

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