Is colored newspaper ink more toxic than black?
June 20, 2010 3:34 PM   Subscribe

Is it ok to use newspaper with colored ink to light charcoal in a chimney-style fire starter? Will the fumes or particulates be any worse than those from black ink pages?

I light the charcoal in my Weber kettle using a cylindrical metal chimney contraption. For kindling, I use the Boston Globe. Is there any reason why pages with colored ink on them would be worse for the environment or the health of those inhaling near the grill or eating the food cooked on it than pages with just black ink? I found a reference that suggests the Globe uses soy-based inks, if that makes any difference. And I'm only talking about newsprint, not glossy ad inserts.
posted by Jasper Fnorde to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Hasn't killed me yet!
posted by mollymayhem at 3:43 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Should be perfectly safe.
The newspaper I worked for used a Soy based Ink, The only difference was the pigment color.
posted by gog at 3:58 PM on June 20, 2010

Grilled meat is full of carcinogens anyway, so I wouldn't bother worrying about the paper.
posted by NortonDC at 4:59 PM on June 20, 2010

Well, you didn't specify meat, so that was presumptuous. Sorry!
posted by NortonDC at 5:11 PM on June 20, 2010

No worries about extra bad stuff, but it doesn't burn as well. I'd stick to plain newsprint.
posted by cosmicbandito at 5:43 PM on June 20, 2010

Yeah, you're on the right track in that it largely depends on 1) whether there are hazardous chemicals in the inks, and 2) whether there's a route for them to get in to you.

According to wikipedia, almost all newspapers now use soy-based inks, so you're probably right about the Globe. But this (perhaps dated) related question on composting colored pages states that some inks still include chemicals like benzene, which is a definitive bad guy that doesn't require a large dose to do damage. And this undated fact sheet from the MA Toxics Use Reduction Institute mentions that many soy-based inks still include some petroleum products to enhance drying times - but it, too, may well be out of date, as they lost their funding several years ago.

So 1) it's likely safer than it was back when inks were More hazardous. 2) Whether there are routes of exposure by inhaling the smoke or by eating particulates deposited on food is another question - it seems like it'd be de minimus as you're presumably outside, which is well ventilated, and most of the paper and ink is burnt up before the food reaches the grill. But I'll be interested to see if more information is uncovered!
posted by ldthomps at 7:02 PM on June 20, 2010

The dyes used for papers source from the automotive industry and are petroleum hydrocarbon based. If there's lots of blues and greens in the ink/dye (fluid dispersion) those are most likely phthalocyanines and not too healthful residue on anything you are eating. The reds are most likely quinacridones, and I don't know about those.
posted by effluvia at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2010

The inks might be soy based, but everything else in the ink -- pigments, solvents, etc. -- is not.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2010

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