Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Are Newspapers Hazardous to Your Health?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Are Newspapers Hazardous to Your Health?

Article excerpt

The combined Sunday Detroit News and Free Press is hazardous to your health, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young says.

For $500 of city money, Young has produced a scientific study that purports to show the joint Sunday newspaper contains levels of toxic substances that "far exceed EPA [Environment Protection Agency] levels."

"What these tests make clear is that the people who put out our Sunday JOA [joint operating agreement] newspaper should be worrying about cleaning up toxic substances found in their own product, rather than running scare headlines about projects that are perfectly safe," Young said in a prepared statement.

A couple of problems emerged in the days after the chemical analysis was released, however.

For one thing, there are no mandatory EPA levels for the substances in newspapers, or any other print products, according to the EPA.

And none of the substances found in the newspaper are included in the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that sets solid waste standards, says Wilson Cunningham, the American Newspaper Publishers Association vice president for technical research.

For another thing, an EPA toxicologist says, the "toxic" amounts the Detroit study mentions are not toxic at all.

"The levels that they are citing are not levels that endanger the health of someone reading a newspaper or [the health] of a child who might eat part of the paper," said Carol Braverman, a toxicologist with Carol Braverman, a toxicologist with the EPA's regional office in Chicago.

ANPA's Cunningham said he had made some calculations from the study results to put those "toxic" levels in perspective.

"I bought a bottle of Maalox [antacid] and calculated that in the average dose of three teaspoons there are 234 milligrams of aluminum," he said.

"To get the same amount from the Detroit News and Free Press you would have to consumer 32 pages," Cunningham said.

Consider zinc, he added. To get the federally recommended daily allowance of 15 milligrams, a person would have to eat 11 pages of the newspaper, he said.

So little magnesium is in newspapers, Cunningham said, that according to the Detroit study, a person would have to eat 108 pages of the paper just to get the recommended daily allowance.

Similarly, the soy oil-based inks used by the Detroit papers have been formulated to contain no known toxins, carcinogens, mutagens, or the like, Cunningham said.

"The industry as a whole has taken great strains to keep the product as safe as possible," Cunningham said. …

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