Hi ladies,

I'm faced with the simultaneous task of growing my letterpress business and planning to start a family. I know that it's best to avoid solvent fumes while pregnant, but does anyone know about the safety of handling metal type? I always wash my hands after setting type before eating, touching my face, etc - but I don't use gloves. I feel like it would be impossible to set type while wearing them! 

I've heard that the lead in type does not get absorbed by the skin, and is only a danger if ingested - but have any of you safely handled lead type while pregnant? 

Thanks,

Elana

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Hi Elana,

Congratulations! I just went through this myself--I now have a six month old baby girl.

I had my lead levels tested at 18 weeks, and was on the low side of normal...and I set type fairly regularly, though not every day, but I work around it 60+ hours/week. My doctors didn't seem that concerned, either.

That said, they were a bit more cautious when I told them that I'd be bringing the baby to work every day. They recommended that I wear gloves when handling type...and that was it. That said, wearing gloves is not very conducive to setting type, so haven't been doing it. I wash my hands (and arms, too) a few times before I pick up the baby. And I don't set her down near the type cabinets at all. I also don't sweep the floors when she's there (in case there's dusty lead bits on the floor) and I don't washup the presses when she's nearby (though I use an orange oil solvent, which is as non-toxic as commercial press wash gets).

We each have our own comfort levels, though, and a baby is another level of stress and concern. I encourage you to do the research on lead and kids, and take it one day at a time!

Kelly - Thanks for your thoughts. Congrats on your little one!

It is just stressful because it's hard to know if I'm finding the relevant research, and doctors don't really have any idea what we are working with. Do you know if there is any precautions to be taken with being around ink? I never gave any thought to being exposed to Van Son Rubber-based before, but now some of my research says that oil-based inks are dangerous to be exposed to while pregnant. 

Thanks much,

Elana

Elana,

It's a good habit to have the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) on file for all of your inks and solvents. Van Son Rubber Base is one of the lowest-toxicity inks you will find. (see #11 on the sheet)

Again, from my own experience, my little one is robustly healthy, and has been meeting all of her developmental milestones at or ahead of schedule. And I printed 5-6 days a week through my 40th week of pregnancy. And she comes to work with me 5-6 days a week (though she's not setting type, or inking or cleaning the presses).

During pregnancy, I had way more concern about pumping gas at the gas station than I did being in the printshop 10 hours a day. That's my two cents.

Kelly

This pediatrician believes the dangers of small lead exposures have been overstated. Worth checking out:  http://www4.hmc.edu:8001/chemistry/Pb/resources/pb-tainted%20scienc...

I have been setting type and printing for many years and throughout my pregnancy. I wash my hands. A lot! My kid is now 20 months old, is perfectly healthy, and both he and I never test out of the normal range for lead. My 100+ year old house is probably a bigger risk than anything I do in it.

When my son was a baby, I set type and printed with him on my back. Now that he's a toddler, he's pretty much not allowed in the shop. But like I said, I wash my hands a lot, and always between working in the shop and picking him up.

Best wishes!

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