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Production Powders Become a Concern

December 2001

"We're fortunate now that we're in the autumn, because it's primarily more of a situation when its humid and warmer, and there's a concern about pages sticking together. With cooler weather, it shouldn't be an issue," Costiglio notes.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons of Chicago took the lead among printers, stating in a release that it would curtail or completely eliminate the use of print production powders. "To allay concerns raised by our customers—and ultimately, subscribers and newsstand buyers—we are minimizing or eliminating the use of powder additives in our processes where possible," stated the release, which was distributed to Donnelley customers via its sales representatives.

"For those few products where we would use a slip agent in our process, mail or product owners will be contacted prior to application. The impact on quality and/or runnability, however, is unknown and will be evaluated on an individual basis."

The company added that even publications not produced with these powders may still feature a residue of paper dust or similar lubricating powder from other material such as inserts or polywraps. Donnelley will evaluate its polyfilms to ensure the material it purchases does not exacerbate the issue.

The Graphic Arts Technical Foundation and the Printing Industries of America released an Anthrax Resource Guide for printers, which contains information such as OSHA's recommendations for handling suspicious letters or packages. Also included is a spray powder declaration form that explains the spray powders used in the production process, which printers can provide to their clientele to allay their concerns.

"We've gotten several e-mails and phone calls over the last week," notes Gary Jones, manager of environmental, health and safety affairs for the GATF, in reference to powder scares. "So we put together the resource guide, which contains Web addresses for the USPS, CDC and OSHA, and a one page information sheet on spray powder—their composition, function and particle size.

"This has become more of a panic and concern issue rather than a health issue," adds Jones, who feels that the use of powder in a sheetfed printing operation is "unavoidable."

The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) notes that some publishers have asked their printers to eliminate or minimize the use of powder additives, as well as suspend the use of polybags whenever possible.

Similarly, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has offered guidelines to its members and printers to ensure safe and effective mailing campaigns. Using clear and identifiable return addresses on the envelopes, with toll-free phone numbers and Website addresses, are just a few of the tips offered to differentiate marketing mail from the suspicious examples that have been found to contain threats.

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