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Re: Metals in Printing Ink


I represent the Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center (PNEAC) one of the EPA-OECA Compliance Assistance Centers and did send a reply to your inquiry.   I regret if you did not receive the reply.  For more information about printing P2 and compliance issues please see www.pneac.org.

In reply to your question, newspapers are typically printed with offset lithographic printing processes or some flexographic printing processes.  Approximately 1% of the entire flexographic printing market is used to print newspapers.

In terms of metals contents, most heavy metals were phased out of printing inks in the 1970's when the Environmental Protection Act and RCRA began to impact the use of these materials.  In the 1980's the technology to develop pigments while achieving color standards continued to improve and the remaining heavy metals were phased out of inks.  There are a few exceptions to trace amounts of metals blended in ink due to the metal compounds are in the pigments that give the ink the desired color.  These metals blended into the ink do not necessarily mean the material would be considered hazardous nor are the metals in a volume that would render the waste hazardous. 

Substitutes for hazardous metal compounds have been developed for materials using copper, barium and nickel.  These are the most common metals blended in compound form into ink pigments.  Copper is commonly found in blue, green, violet and some red inks.  Barium is commonly found in orange and red inks.  Nickel is found in yellow inks.  Chromium and lead, at one time, were blended into yellow ink.  However substitutes have been developed.  There are a few cases where very minute amounts (less than 1%) chromium compounds and lead compounds are blended into SPECIALTY inks.  These are used in very minute quantities and not commonly found. 

If you are referring to the ink's ability to release metals from the actual newsprint, the response to this question is that there is no evidence of measurable leaching of metals  (or other hazardous materials for that matter) from the ink.  The pigments, once the ink is cured into the newsprint, are encapsulated in the ink resins and binders, as well as into the fibers of the paper. In other words there should be no concern over using newsprint (both colored and black and white) are perfectly safe to use in compost, etc.

I hope this sufficiently addresses your question and that this explanation reaches your desk top...this time.


Debra Jacobson

specific metals are used in the pigments.  However they are At 07:52 AM 8/8/02 -0500, you wrote:
Forwarded on behalf of Rusty Harris-Bishop.  Please reply to p2tech@great-lakes.net.

I have a question regarding the color inserts in newspapers (I believe it's a flexographic process). Does anyone know if they still use metal inks in printing these? Does anyone know when they were phased out if they were? I have looked on the print-tech archives, and didnt' see it answered, and posted a question, but it didn't seem to get a response.

Anyone have any suggestions?


Rusty Harris-Bishop




Debra Jacobson          
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IL Waste Management & Research Center / IL Dept of Natural Resources
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