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Diseases and Hazards in the Offset Pressroom

Printing Started As A Hazardous Trade
Although modern day organizations have make pressrooms safer, there are numerous hazards that plague pressmen in our 21st century.  They're not new to the printing industry, but modern discoveries have helped us to take additional steps to protect ourselves.


It started with a man named Bernardino Ramazzini who lived in Italy in the late 1600's.  He was a doctor who studied various diseases affecting workers.  He wrote a book in 1700 entitled, "Diseases of Workers".  He analyzed over 50 "dangerous trades" and in his book he includes that printers were plagued by "unusual lung disorders".


Add to this studies that have come out in the past 100 years.  They have continually proven that pressmen suffer from lung disorders.  So the question remains, what is the cause?


Emphysema
Studies show that pressmen suffer a higher rate of emphysema that most other trades.  The number of chemicals that pressmen use have not decreased.  While safety standards have placed restrictions on what chemical companies can use, lung disorders remain an issue.  While exposure to lead has thankfully been taken from inks, other materials take its place.


Paper Dust And Ink
Breathing Ink Mist is Hazardous
Studies have been done at paper mills and it has been found that those who are continually exposed to paper dust have as much as 300% higher risk of pulmonary disease.  Additionally, coughing and tightness of chest were reported among workers.


Breathing in mist from ink certainly contributes to emphysema and other respiratory diseases.  A fan placed near a running printing unit will turn black (or whatever color the press is running) quite quickly.  The lungs take no less abuse.  Additional hazards include dangers from various offset spray powders static reduction products.

Dermatitis
This condition is an iflammation of the skin that causes a redness or swelling. Dermatitis can come quickly with exposure or begin to flare up after repeated exposure over a long period of time. Removing the natural oil barriers on the surface of the skin allow the solvent to penetrate. Your body will naturally fight these foreign substances and swelling results.


Protect Yourself
Pay now or pay later.  Breathing in ink, dust, or fumes from various solutions used in offset printing may not cause an immediate effect, but it will certainly catch up if no precautions are taken.  Especially when working near printing units or around paper dust.  Most pressmen do not even smell it after a while, but visitors will assure you that the smell is strong.


Moreover, solvents may not cause inflammation immediately, but prolonged exposure can cause dermatitis.  Protect your hands with gloves.  Insist on this protection.  A good pressroom manager will see that it is provided.


If you stand all day on concrete, as I know all pressmen do, here are some practical things you can do to protect your back, while you are working.


So do the right thing, protect yourself.

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