Is Printer Ink Toxic?

by Hazel Baker - Updated September 26, 2017
large format ink jet printer tonner

Many people use and are exposed to printer ink on a daily basis. Few know what printer inks are made of and whether their ingredients are toxic.

Toxicity

Multifunction machine

The good news is that while printer ink can cause an upset stomach if ingested, it is not fatal. In most cases, it is not even necessary to call poison control. Getting printer ink on your skin is no more harmful than drawing on yourself with a pen.

What Is Printer Ink Made Of?

Cartridges of color laser printer

Printer inks are a combination of humectants, resins, fungicides, biocides and distilled surfactants. They can be either dye- or pigment-based. Pigment inks are often preferred since they are waterproof and fade-resistant. Dye- based inks, while brighter in color, are slow to dry and tend to fade more quickly.

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Disposal Of Printer Ink Cartridges

Printing

While printer inks are nontoxic when it comes to touching and ingesting them, after they are disposed of, they can be considered hazardous, due to the various chemicals that they contain. These chemicals are sometimes considered to be flammable, corrosive or reactive and most material safety data sheets provided by printer ink manufacturers, include tips for the safe disposal of these products.

Printer Ink Recycling Programs

Recycle Bin

Many printer ink cartridge recycling programs exist. Services available range from the simple safe disposal and recycling of cartridges to cartridge reimbursement, buy-back and exchange programs. One way to recycle and/or safely dispose of your printer ink cartridges is to call the manufacturer directly, since most manufacturers have programs in place and will even send you a mailer for your old cartridges. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website is a good place to get recycling information.

Reusing and Recycling

Eight colors printer ink

Now you know that even though printer ink is not toxic, it can still release toxic chemicals into the environment if not disposed of properly. This is a reason to dispose of cartridges properly and recycle when possible.

Resources

About the Author

Hazel Baker has been writing professionally since 2003. She covers e-commerce, technology and legal topics for various online publications. Baker has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in history from Point Loma Nazarene University.

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