I received a call from a local college who is catching some heat from new administration about the metal type they have in their print shop. Do any of you have experience dealing with this? My contact is looking for arguing points above and beyond the standard safe use education.
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I was trying to revive the letterpress shop at my college at the same time the dean asked for an industrial safety expert to survey the college for hazards. The “expert” declared that the lead type was too dangerous for women of child-bearing age to handle and all of the type was removed by a extremely expensive hazardous waste removal company. I wasn’t allowed to take it for my own press because the college felt that if I fell ill they would be liable. Even though there has never been one documented case of anyone dying from using lead type the type was destroyed.
I also had to agree to never take students to my studio where they would be exposed to lead type. At the same time there were at least 5 college/university level letterpress shops within 40 miles that functioned safely. There was no listening to proof or examples to change the mind of the administration. Once the industrial hazards people write a report about handling lead type you would think it was more dangerous than plutonium. I’ve been there and feel their pain. Good luck to them.
Ps We were allowed to use wood type once the presses were “decontaminated.”
Dear Nancy, This is an outrage. Typemetal is quite different from oxidizing lead, and poses no harm whatever to anyone using it. There are numerous studies on the web demonstrating this, and OSHA has acknowledged it. No-one should allow these ignorant troglodytes to toss out lead type (which is actually an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony). The “expert” cited above should have his diaper changed and be sent home to mother. In my humble opinion, of course.
David L. Kent, archivist, Amalgamated Printers’ Association, and member of Laddies of Letterpress