Solvent exposures in screen printing shops

Sanford W. Horstman, Steven R. Browning, Rae Anne Szeluga, Jennifer Burzycki, Arlene Stebbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A comprehensive description of working conditions, exposure patterns for organic solvents, and related health symptoms among workers in ten small screen printing companies located in Seattle, Washington, is presented. Sampling methods included continuous area monitoring, grab sampling, personal sampling, and time study observation. A total of 27 workers were observed and monitored for solvent exposure. Short-term peak exposures were characterized in terms of magnitude, duration and repetition, and their contribution to time weighted average (TWA) exposures were evaluated. A health questionnaire addressing the symptoms potentially attributable to solvents was used to investigate the possible health effects from exposure. Significant differences in the prevalence of headaches, dizziness, intoxication, and dry skin (p < 0.01) were reported among workers who had some solvent exposure compared with the referent group that was not exposed. Exposed workers were also more likely to report fatigue, loss of strength in the arms and hands, difficulty concentrating, sore throat, and a low alcohol tolerance. The study documented highly variable levels of solvent exposures. Screen printing workers in different companies, while performing the same basic tasks, had time weighted average (TWA) exposures ranging from 2% to 100% of the recommended threshold limit value (TLV) for mixtures. Continuous monitoring indicated that high short-term exposures are responsible for the bulk of TWA exposures. Grab samples and continuous monitoring verified that recommended Short Term Exposure Limits (STEL) for individual solvents may be exceeded on a routine basis. Frequent skin contact with solvents was also observed. Health problems in this industry and other small industries using organic solvents may result from these complex patterns of exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1957-1973
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2001


  • Graphic arts
  • Screen printing
  • Small industry
  • Solvent exposures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


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