Production Powders Become a Concern

But while these print production powders clearly are not a physical threat to those who come in contact with them, the psychological and emotional turmoil they can cause to uninformed recipients is immeasurable. Some of the biggest players in the publishing and printing industries are doing what they can to address the concerns.

Time Inc. has asked its printers to discontinue the use of cornstarch-based powders in the manufacture of its magazines, according to Peter Costiglio, spokesman for the New York-based news giant.

“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.

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