The Washington Department of Ecology (DoE) released a draft report recommending developing a regulation to reduce the amount of inadvertent polychlorinated biphenyls (iPCBs) found in four color process inks used by the printing industry. The DoE’s recommendation was contained in its latest draft report to the legislature. The report to the legislature details the efforts DoE plans to take implementing the requirements of the state’s Safer Products for Washington, passed in 2019.
The Safer Products for Washington program identify eleven priority products that the DoE considers to be a significant source of or use of priority chemicals. In addition to listing printing inks as a priority product, the other products include flame retardants in electronics and recreational polyurethane foam products, thermal paper, laundry detergent, food and phthalates in vinyl flooring and drink cans with liners containing phenolic compounds (bisphenols), and phthalates in personal care and hygiene products (fragrance). For the printing ink product category, DoE identified the issue as one that focuses on inadvertent polychlorinated biphenyls (iPCBs). The agency included printing ink, as they believe that iPCBs can form as a byproduct in the production of certain chlorinated color pigments, including diarylide yellows, phthalocyanine blues and greens, and possibly certain titanium dioxides.
In its comment to the DoE, PRINTING United Alliance stated that it “has been engaged with Department of Ecology (Ecology) since the beginning of this program and has found Ecology's response to input and feedback to be nonproductive. The process used to identify printing inks as significant source of polychlorinated biphenyls that require a regulatory solution conflict with established scientific, technical, and economic laws and regulations governing products in commerce in the United States. When printing inks were identified for the program in 2020, Ecology's conclusion that “colored pigments contained in inks are the largest source of inadvertent PCB contamination in consumer goods” was not supported by any specific references, studies, or other supporting documentation that could be located.
The report issued by DoE was supported by their test results for iPCBs in ink systems, which was the first time inks were tested. Prior to this testing, DoE decided to include inks in the safer products program due to random testing of printed products, such as packaging, that found iPCBs in some products, but not all of them. It was not until the end of 2021 that the DoE tested any inks and even then, it appears that they only tested sheetfed offset lithographic inks and a digital ink system, although DoE has yet to confirm which ink systems were tested.
Regarding Ecology’s testing methodology, PRINTING United Alliance indicated that “Ecology did not issue a formal report on the ink testing. Only raw data was issued. Additional explanation is required as to why the ink testing was only performed on one set of samples. DoE did not perform any duplicate sampling and testing, which is an essential element of analytical testing methodology."
“Replication is used to increase confidence in the integrity of data generated by analytical methods. Only having one set of test results on unknown types of inks does not provide sufficient data to draw any conclusions regarding the concentration of PCBs found in inks, the range of PCBs, or the consistency of the concentrations of PCBs in inks. There needs to be a baseline of concentration established before a regulatory limit can be imposed. Until duplicate and additional testing on a wider range of ink types, Ecology does not have adequate data to propose a regulation limiting the concentration of PCBs in inks.”
In making its decision to regulate inks, the DoE did not perform any assessment of risk associated with iPCBs in process inks. It has not demonstrated that any proposed restrictions will reduce a significant source of exposure, nor has DoE shown that its proposed restrictions will reduce risk to human health or the environment.
In conclusion, PRINTING United stated that “Based on the review of the data provided by Ecology, PRINTING United Alliance does not believe that Ecology has presented sufficient information to justify moving forward with a regulation to set iPCBs levels in inks. Nor does Ecology have the data to establish a “safer alternative” for all inks. Through their limited testing program, Ecology misrepresented inks used by the printing, publishing, and packaging industry. Before moving forward with a regulation that could tremendously impact the Washington State printing industry sector, Ecology needs to clearly and accurately demonstrate that inks, all inks used by the industry, pose a threat to human health and the environment.”
PRINTING United Alliance continues to work to ensure that this program does not unduly impact the printing industry. For a full copy of comments submitted by PRINTING United Alliance, please reach out to either Gary Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org or Marci Kinter at email@example.com.