low-toxicity ink?

I print with Van Son Rubber Base inks, but I have a potential client who specifically is asking for low-toxicity ink. How does the V.S. rate for toxicity? Are there any good eco-friendly alternatives out there?

Similarly, any recommendations for a recycled ivory cover stock that would take a nice deep impression?


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Well, I guess that depends on what your client means by “low toxicity”. On Van Son’s website you’ll find the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each type of ink they make. It gives all kinds of information on exactly how toxic the ink is, based on its chemical components. There’s a lot of information there, a lot of which can be somewhat complicated (OSHA PEL’s, for example).

As far as Van Son Rubber Base Plus Black goes, its health hazard rating is 1, meaning it’s a slight health hazard. Exactly how slight depends on the type of exposure you have to the chemicals in the ink (inhalation, skin, eye, etc.), in what concentrations, and for how long.

Generally speaking, printing inks are safe to use in a reasonably ventilated environment, though most contain pigments that can be toxic in high enough concentrations. Unless you’re sniffing the can on purpose or working in a small room with all the doors and windows closed, you should be fine.

As far as your client is concerned, if he or she is worried about the ink being toxic once its dried on the finished product, I’d say the chances are miniscule. The only concern I can think of offhand would be if a child got a hold of something you printed and decided to chew on it, thereby actually ingesting the ink. That would indeed be a bad thing, and you’d definately have to get a doctor right away. Beyond that, I’ve never heard of any specific toxicity issues with ink.

I guess this post is a long, rambling way of saying that if your client is looking for an ink that is completely harmless , Van Son’s, or any other traditionally made printing ink, isn’t it. I know there’s been a movement in recent years to make more environmentally friendly inks, but I don’t personally know of any that are completely harmless.

Now would also be a great time for me to point out that I am not a chemist, safety expert, or doctor. I’m only going by personal experience, and the parts of the MSDS that I’m familiar with. I certianly can’t guarantee the accuracy of what I’ve said, and if anyone knows any different, please speak up.