Health, Safety, and Environmental Concerns
Plastisol inks are innocuous when used with reasonable care. A true plastisol ink contains no air-polluting solvents or volatile organic compounds. The manufacture, transportation, storage, use, and disposal of plastisol inks do not cause injury, illness, or environmental contamination as long as the appropriate safety and environmental protection procedures are followed. Most plastisol inks have a Health Rating of 1 (hazard - slight), a Flammability Rating of 1 (hazard - slight), a Reactivity Rating of 0 (hazard - minimal) and a Personal Protection Rating of B (wear safety glasses and gloves).
Health, Safety, and the Environment - Water-Based Inks - The Green Factor
Many textile screenprinters use water-base inks because they, or their customers, believe that waterbased textile inks are safe in the shop and do not damage the environment. What they do not realize is that water-based inks, like all other inks, are industrial chemicals. Screen printers who buy and use water- based inks are required to obey exactly the same local, regional, and federal laws and regulations pertaining to employee training, storage, handling, and disposal as screen printers using any other kind of textile ink.
What can honestly and accurately be said about water-based inks, shop safety, and the environment?
* Water-based inks can be cleaned up with water. most screen printers use mineral spirits or something similar for cleaning up plastisol inks. American Canvas note: We use all earth friendlier soy based reclaiming products and along with many printers activly encourage other printers to stop using harmful reclaiming chemicals that are no longer needed thanks to technological break throughs.
* The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Right to Know (RTK) regulations apply to water-base inks just as much as to any other kind of ink.
* You must have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS Sheets) on all the water- based inks and ink additives in your plant.
* You must make sure your employees read and understand the MSDS Sheets.
* You must train your employees to handle, store, and clean up water-base inks safely and make sure that they do so.
* Some water-base inks contain volatile organic compounds (VOC's), chemicals that evaporate as the ink dries and, unless you have an excellent ventilation system, get mixed into the air everyone in the plant breathes.
* Until recently, some water-base inks or ink additives contained chemicals that were suspected or known to be human carcinogens; that is, they could cause cancer in people exposed to them. Review the MSDS sheets on the inks in your plant carefully to determine if this is the case with any of the inks you use.
* Do not assume that you can dispose of water-based inks, or waste water used to clean waterbased inks off screens and squeegees by dumping it down the drain. Only your local waste water treatment facility can determine if the ink you are using can be disposed of in this manner, and if they do permit it, they will certainly put limits on how much you can dump down the drain.
* If your waste water is not processed by a wastewater treatment plant (if you have a private septic system) you should consult with the nearest health department before you start dumping your waste ink and wash water down the drain.
I am unaware of any research or scientific reports that indicate that the chemicals used in water- based inks are safer to manufacture, use, or dispose of than the chemicals used in plastisol inks, assuming that in both cases the chemicals are processed in accordance with applicable health, safety and environmental protection regulations.
On the other hand, water- based inks, like all other kinds of screen printing inks may be hazardous to your health and damaging to the environment if handled illegally or carelessly.