Pressmen and printers routinely came into contact with benzene-containing inks, ink solvents and washes. As a result of those benzene exposures, employees who worked in the printing industry are at an elevated risk for developing myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Benzene is a known carcinogen, and there is no safe level of benzene exposure.
Oncologists rarely ask whether you worked around benzene. However, if you cleaned the presses, you were likely being exposed to benzene. Blanket washes and roller washes have contained benzene. Other common ways that pressmen would be exposed to benzene include evaporation from ink fountains, the paper post-exit, the paper web and filling fountains. Historically, many workers in the printing industry actually washed their hands with benzene-containing solvents. These exposures can cause AML and MDS.