2003/1799 GoodPracBookletEN-1 - European Agency for Safety ...


2003/1799 GoodPracBookletEN-1 - European Agency for Safety ...

E u r o p e a n A g e n c y f o r S a f e t y a n d H e a l t h a t W o r k


Kent Art Printers Ltd

Caxton House,

Hopewell Drive,


Kent ME5 7NP


Tel: (44-1634) 844644


Use of isopropanol (alcohol) in the fount solution within the dampening system of

lithographic printing presses. The solution was to remove the use of isopropanol.




In conventional lithographic printing, the lithography printing plate (one for each

colour) has water (dampening) applied with rollers, and ink applied simultaneously

with other rollers. The water is attracted to the non-image areas (hydrophilic) of

the plate and stays there due to the meniscus effect (surface tension) within

microscopic pores in the surface. The ink is attracted to the image areas (oleophilic)

that consist of a surface coating that is produced photographically. Each plate then

shows areas that are damp (non image) or inked (image). Good lithography uses

as little ink and water as possible to aid ink/water balance.

A thinner layer of water is achieved by adding a ‘wetting’ agent in the form of

alcohol (isopropanol), which is a volatile organic compound. An acidic water

additive (fount solution) is used to ensure that the plate background remains

water attracting (hydrophilic).

Exposure to isopropanol can produce both short-term and long-term health

effects and is an irritant to the eyes and the respiratory system. It is also an

environmental hazard.


The practical prevention of risks from dangerous substances at work



It was decided to introduce ‘alcohol-free’ litho printing. The same basic

principles of lithography apply but without the alcohol element. This involved

making press modifications.

• The ‘Pan’ roller (polyurethane) and ‘forme’ damper needed to be of a

different composition (25 deg’ shore hardness and fine grained) to carry the

water more efficiently.

• The roller settings had to be adjusted more accurately to give better control

of water to the plate.

• A special fount solution was needed.

The company has also moved to use other more environmentally friendly

products, including vegetable-based inks and an aqueous-based coater.


There was an initial cost of EUR 4,085 for each press conversion to fit the special

rollers, but the change has resulted in a saving of EUR 3,000 per year through

not purchasing isopropanol.

The measures have led to a healthier work environment. There has been no

sickness absence due to inhaling alcohol fumes and machine minders and

factory staff do not report the symptoms that alcohol can give, such as

headaches, drowsiness and nausea. Visiting printers have commented that

the factory does not smell of alcohol and is a more pleasant working

environment. In addition harmful emissions to the local environment have

been reduced.

There is a feeling that the standards of printing have improved, because the

equipment has to be kept in very good condition and be well maintained to run



Improved health and safety for workers can also mean improved environmental

performance. The measures adopted were required and common practice in

some countries, but not obligatory in the UK.

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