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ISO: Ink Toxicity

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My family operated an off set printing machine in our home from approximately 1958 to 1965. My mother printed civil defense cards and later CB cards. She used various colors of ink. I am trying to find out what toxins were in the ink as well as the solvents used to clean the printing press.



  1. Paul Moxon, Website Editor 20 April, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Here are two articles that may be of interest:

    Btw, do you have any examples of your mother’s civil defense or CB cards?

  2. Just because an ingredient is toxic doesn’t mean that the end product is dangerous. Dry lamp black pigment would be hazardous if inhaled, but once milled into oil vehicle to become printer’s ink and it can no longer be inhaled, not a worry. In that period some more dangerous pigments were used that are now obsolete such as chrome yellow and chrome orange, but even if your mother used them in her work, I would not be concerned about any minute residues today. The solvents used in cleanup are volatile and would have vanished long ago.
    The only hypothetical situation that would concern me is if ink and solvent waste were buried in the ground. Clumps of color in the dirt would be an indicator of something that could leach into the water table; but consider, how much waste could be generated in a mere seven years printing ephemera? Really, not much.

  3. As Eric Holub stated, in 1958–65 chrome, cadmium and lead compounds were used as colourants in printing inks. Inhaling or eating their dry powder is unhealthy for individuals, it is not advisable to rub your bare skin (hands) with the inks, and dumping ink remainders with such compounds pollutes the environment.

    For pigments:, scroll down to ‘Metal-based pigment’ and check links to the individual pigments for their toxicity. For an overview see: Most metal compound pigments are now replaced by synthetic organic dye-stuffs.

    Your mother will have cleaned the press and the printing forms with a kind of turpenoid (‘turps’), one of a range of volatile and neurotoxic solvents. Official term: Volatile Organic Compound (VOC):

    How toxic this has been to her depends on the amounts she was exposed to, the way and the duration of exposure.

  4. In India distilled aromatic extracts DAE is used for printing newspapers. The level is about 50%+ especially in black. Some sheet fed inks also contain the same and some are used in primary food packaging. Go digital where possible.

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