Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What is a V.O.C. ? (Volatile Organic Compounds and the Printing Industry)

These days, it's fairly easy to source a printer who promotes recycled, post-consumer-waste papers. I have often curbed my guilt about sending off thousands upon thousands of copies to the printers because the paper was, afterall, recycled.  Lately, however, I have decided to take another small step towards full-sustainability and begin to probe my printers for answers on their ink choices.

Conventional offset prints are created with petroleum-based inks. These inks contain a plethora of heavy metals and they emit Volatile Organic Compounds into the environment A volatile organic compound (VOC) is a carbon-based chemical compound that, under normal conditions, evaporates at room temperature. You can literally smell this process at work when you pump gasoline, and when your oil-based paint is drying. These compounds are a health and environmental concern - not only are they harmful pollutants to our ground water and soil, but they can also cause cancer and birth defects.

Employees at printing presses often complain of dizziness, headaches, and respiratory problems directly related to the raw materials used in the printing process. The great news is that there are better, safer alternatives to printing with conventional oil/petroleum based inks. Soy and vegetable based inks have lower VOC emissions and the quality is equally as crisp as traditional CMYK printing. Ask your printer if they offer low VOC printing, and if they don't, there are many other printers out there that do !

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