A Safety Guide to UV Ink

Sign and print shops are increasingly using UV-cure type inkjet printers for printing onto rigid substrates and other applications. It’s a good idea to review some of the safety concerns of these inks and the safeguards that should be put into place. UV-curable inks are very reactive materials and are classified as hazardous. They must be dealt with carefully to prevent injury.

The major safety issues with UV-curable inks include:

  • Skin irritation from contact with uncured inks
  • Inhalation of reactive materials from the printing and curing process
  • Eye damage from contact with uncured inks
  • Long term exposure may cause sensitization in some individuals

Once completely cured, UV ink is inert and relatively safe. To assure complete curing:

  • Follow individual equipment manufacturers’ UV exposure recommendations
  • If the ink smears or the image can be damaged by a thumb twist, it is not fully cured.
  • Disposal of waste UV ink must be done carefully, preferably by a professional hazardous waste company, as UV ink dumped into water will kill fish.

Ultraviolet lamps on UV-curing printers need to be very intense to enable curing at fast printing speeds. However, this intense UV light can cause:

  • Eye damage similar to staring at the sun
  • Cataracts and retinal damage result when there is prolonged exposure to UV radiation.
  • The damage is cumulative and occurs without pain. Therefore, it is imperative that operator exposure to working UV-cure lamps be minimized. Both direct and reflected UV light are hazardous.
  • Wear eye protection if working around an exposed UV cure lamp.
  • Look for a UV-cure printer with a UV-blocking glass window or solid door enclosure, and a brush on the bottom of the lid that prevents UV light from escaping.

For more information on ink safety from Ray Work, click HERE.