Have you ever asked yourself about the possible toxicity of the printer’s ink? Probably not. In fact most people don’t. We don’t really bother to find out whether the ingredients in the printer ink are harmful.
But there will be a time when your brain will automatically bring up the question.
For instance, you spilt the ink accidentally while trying to refill the tank, or you were cleaning the cartridge, and a few drops of ink managed to land on your skin. Incidents like that are inevitable, but should you be worried about your health?
Is printer ink toxic?
Well, you shouldn’t be too worried. Printer ink is non-toxic. It won’t do serious harm even if it’s ingested. Of course, the printer ink can upset the stomach, but it’s not fatal. If you get some ink on your skin, don’t worry, it’s harmless.
What is printer ink made of?
The composition of printer ink may slightly differ from brand to brand. This is why different manufacturers recommend using only a specific type of ink or a genuine cartridge.
The ink contains additives, pigments, resin, lubricants, solvents, and drying agents.
The ingredient, which gives color to the ink, is known as pigment. The pigment used in black ink is known as carbon black pigment. Pigments or coloring agents constitute about 5 to 30% of the ink.
There is another type of ingredient known as dispersants which are made of resins. These allow the pigments to flow. See more specifics about the ingredients of ink in my article here
How harmful is printer ink?
According to the tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the only possible negative effect of printer ink is mild eye irritation.
The result was based on a series of tests that showed no fatal injury or permanent damage. However, you should never compromise your safety. Although it is classified as non-toxic, it is also not meant for consumption or rated as skin-friendly.
Also, the intensity of irritation can differ from one person to another; just as some are allergic to peanuts, while some are not.
For any questions related to the printer ink and its toxicity, you can always check the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) of the brand you’re using, for example, here’s a link to the one for HP.
All manufacturers have MSDS of their products which you can find on their website. It should tell you what is contained in the ink.
Can printer ink cause cancer?
This question has been a subject of controversial debate for many years. In the mid-1990s, the rate of increase in cancer amongst the people who were employed in commercial printing industries across different parts of the world caught the attention of health organizations including the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
In Japan, when at least a dozen people were diagnosed with bile duct cancer, a research team was sent to find out the cause. The research team pointed out that the cause of cancer might be one of the ingredients used in the printing press, as all of these people were employed or former employees of the printing press. However, they were unable to provide a piece of strong evidence.
In 2007, a group of researchers from Australia group of researchers from Australia claimed that carbon black (an active ingredient of printer ink) is dispelled into the air when printing.
Back in those days, carbon black was considered as a cancer-causing agent by some health organizations, but it was not accepted by all since it lacked scientific evidence.
The belief that carbon black was a human carcinogen (a substance known for causing or forming cancer cells) was discarded after doing more than a decade of research.
The results did not show a clear pattern, and the information on exposure of the substance was not clear, or very poor, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
In other words, the evidence was not strong, and the results were very inconsistent.
In 2010, the IARC once again conducted a series of tests. But it showed similar test results as the previous tests.
This led them to conclude that there is very little chance that it might cause cancer to humans. This was declared after doing carbon black experiments on experimental animals.
This review, as submitted by IARC, was backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As mentioned, again and again, the test results were very inconsistent, and there wasn’t enough data or strong evidence. However, it is strongly recommended that you always be in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
What is carbon black and why is it used in printer ink?
If you’ve seen an old kerosene powered lamp, you might have noticed black soot-like material covering the upper part of the glass chimney.
That black stuff is carbon black. Carbon black is produced when incomplete combustion occurs when burning petroleum products such as tar. It is used in a number of rubber products such as tires.
It’s also used in paints, plastics, and as a color pigment in printer ink.
Carbon black has incredible physical and chemical properties. It’s one of the best coloring agents, and it has a very high blackness which is sometimes referred to as lamp black.
It also has an incredibly good ink balance, good fluidity, wettability, and has high density.
How to manage a printer ink spill safely?
You probably understand how difficult it is to clean up a spilled printer ink if you’ve dealt with it before. Even if you haven’t had a spill, you might have had a similar experience with a leaky cartridge. Although printer ink cannot cause much damage, or burn your skin, you must wash it off with cold water and soap immediately.
If printer ink comes in contact with your eyes, wash it with lots of water and see a doctor as soon as you can.
In case of a printer ink spill, you shouldn’t panic; the key is to clean it up as fast as you can.
The longer the delay, the harder it will be to remove the stain from your clothes or other fabrics such as a carpet. Do not try to rub or wipe away the ink, if you have a sponge or any other cloth which can absorb the liquid, use it to dab the ink.
When you’re done, allow it to dry for at least five minutes, then spray rubbing alcohol or a hair spray and use a paper towel to absorb the remaining ink.
After cleaning, make sure you dispose of the used paper towels and sponges.
Now, you can wash your hands with soap. If the stain refuses to come off, use a household glass cleaner to get rid of it.
How to handle printer cartridges safely.
Handling a printer cartridge, or refilling the ink does not involve risk, but it’s always safe to take a few precautions. Follow these simple steps to ensure that you won’t get messy, and there won’t even be a chance of getting a mild irritation.
Make sure you have your hands covered with latex gloves, and use safety goggles to protect your eyes before you start.
This will not only reduce the chance of getting skin irritation, but you won’t have to scrub your hands hard to remove the drains later on.
Also, wear a mask if you’re handling a printer toner.
Minimizing any possible ink hazards.
As adult guardians, it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children do not have access to things that are not safe for them. While printer ink may be non-toxic, it is certainly not meant for consumption.
So, it’s always a good practice that you keep the printer cartridge and ink bottles away from children’s reach.
When you replace your printer cartridge, always make sure that you dispose of it responsibly. This non-toxic printer ink may still cause an environmental issue if it is not disposed of properly or as directed. Most manufacturers nowadays encourage recycling their used products, be sure to read the instructions carefully.
Some manufacturers will even buy back or exchange your old cartridge for a new one. You can get tons of recycling information on the US Environmental Protection Agency Website.
Printer ink is considered as one of the most expensive liquids, use it carefully and wisely. And always try to avoid spills. Most importantly, keep your printer cartridge from drying out by taking a printout regularly.
By doing this, your printer will serve you without any complications. Link to article that shows how to get most out of ink
Lastly, follow safety instructions; you never know what may happen.
If you’ve been concerned about whether printer ink is toxic or not, you can stop worrying. It is not hazardous to your health in any way. Just make sure that you follow those basic safety precautions described above.
There may be a slight difference in the composition of ink manufactured by different brands, but there are safety guidelines and statutory rules which the brands have to adhere to.
So, it is safe to say that printer ink is not toxic, and it does not pose a serious health threat.