Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Ohio State University Fact Sheet

Community Development

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The Safety Of Newsprint Bedding


Sereana Howard
Joe E. Heimlich

This fact sheet, one in a series, reports data from a study that examined newsprint as an alternative bedding material for farm animals. The study was funded in part by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Litter Prevention and Recycling.

The study addressed newsprint with black ink and examined the supply of newsprint in Ohio, effects of the paper as a bedding, as well as the absorption and decomposition. The bedding was evaluated on management and disposal, animal behavior, and aesthetics.

The newsprint bedding was shredded into small bales. Evaluators commented on the ease of use, stall maintenance, storage and disposal of the newsprint. They also observed animal behaviorsuch as grazing on the newsprint, grooming of the animals and insulation qualities. The general appearance of barns and fields were qualitatively assessed as to dust levels and stail and barn appearance.

One major concern for American livestock operations is safe bedding for the animals. In using shredded newspaperforanimal bedding, there is a concern about possible harm to animals from the newspaper ink. Newspapers have been used over time as bedding for small animals, but not until recently were newspapers considered for large animal bedding.

What is toxic?

Toxic materials are those that may release toxicans or poisons in sufficient quantities to pose a substantial hazard to human health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, toxic is defined as harmful, destructive, or deadly.

The standards used to determine toxicity are defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through resuits of laboratory tests. OSHA tests determine the maximum level of toxicity, stress, or exposure that laboratory animals can withstand. These levels are then standardized for human exposure as amounts of safe exposure are usually higher for animals than for humans. If exposure, daily sales, delivery of newspaper, is safe for humans, then daily exposure is also safe for animals.

Newspaper Ink

Carbon black is the standard ink used for newspapers. Carbon black is comprised of carbon black, oil, miscellaneous ingredients for anti-misting and low-rub, and paraffin distillates for quick dry. Many colored inks contain the same basic ingredients except pigments replace the carbon black for the desired color. This fact sheet addresses primarily the carbon black inks because these are most commonly used in daily newspapers.

Threats of Toxicity in Newspaper Ink

There are three ways ink can have contact with the human body. There is dermal absorption (through the skin), inhalation of ink particles into the respiratory tract (breathing), or ingestion through the mouth and into the digestive system (eating).

There is little threat of dermal absorption of ink or its ingredients once the ink is dry because the ink has achieved its stable state. The ingredients that were potentially absorbable become dry and are no longer able to be absorbed. Lead, which can be absorbed through the skin, was banned as an ingredient in ink by the EPA in 1985 and is, therefore, no longer a threat. Stall trials concluded that the ink rub-off from printed newsprint was not a concern for animals.

Inhalation is a concern only when the ink is in liquid form either in transportation or at the place of production. Particle droplets and evaporation of active ingredients are a concern because they can be inhaled if proper prevention techniques are not practiced during the printing of the newspapers. Again, however, once the ink is applied to the paper and dried, it is stable and there is little danger of inhaling ink particulates. There is a threat of inhalation of dust from finely shredded paper. In this case, the concern is over fibrous inhalation rather than the toxicity. To avoid fibrous inhalation, stall trial results suggest using shreds at least 1 inch x 1 1/2 inch or larger.

Ingestion of inks used on newsprint has not been an issue because the ingredients used in the inks are not considered toxic in either the liquid or dry state. The only animal that showed an indication of grazing on the newspaper bedding was the horse and the grazing was in limited amounts. No other animals indicated any interest in the newsprint as a food source.

These trials and ink references are for the black inks used in newsprint. The trials do not include the waxed or glossy inserts or supplements that accompany newspapers, nor does it include colored inks used on those publications.

All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-6181

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