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Inks and Chemicals -- Environmental Challenges

August 2003
By Erik Cagle


In basic terms, the commercial printing industry has to deal with a new ozone standard set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The standard, previously 0.12 parts per million, now becomes 0.08 parts per million. The back end of the compliance timetable is 2021.

One would presume eliminating 0.04 parts per million over an 18-year span doesn't sound all that challenging. But that breakdown is akin to saying the U.S. government is a bunch of people who take care of things. While true, it is horribly simplistic. The new standard, with its ramifications, is not.

Gary Jones
"What it does," says Gary Jones, manager of environmental health and safety affairs for the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF), "is take 55 counties that are considered non-attainment for ozone under the 0.12 standard and expands it to over 330 counties that are now considered out of compliance for ozone."

American industry sued the EPA after it changed the standard in 1997 and the court of appeals ruled it unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court backed the EPA in 2001. Thus begins the tedious and lengthy process of state and local municipalities submitting compliance plans to the EPA, which has identified commercial printing as both a medium point source (larger printers) and area source (smaller printers) in non-attainment areas.

The compliance plans require these areas to establish new regulations that will produce reductions in those chemicals that produce ozone, namely volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which come from solvents, inks, fountain solution additives and nitrogen oxides, which are produced when fossil fuels are burned.

"What it means . . .is we can expect to see more printers subjected to air permits, therefore be subjected to controls, which means they've got to come up with some way to reduce emissions," Jones explains. "We'll be looking at our traditional input materials."

A glimpse at the areas pinpointed for VOC reduction:

* Ink. Sheetfed and non-heatset inks are not a significant source of VOCs, according to Jones. Most heatset web printers already have control devices, and some don't use controls because their emissions are below the VOC thresholds. "We don't know where the EPA is going to set that threshold on a national level...I would expect to see some pressure on the heatset printers who aren't controlled to put some controls on."
 

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