Skip to comments.Study: Laser Printers Could be Health Hazards
Posted on 08/02/2007 2:24:44 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
Your office laser printer may be hazardous to your health.
That's because some printers emit large quantities of very fine particles that can be breathed into the lungs, according to a study by Australian researchers at the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at the Queensland University of Technology.
"The health effects from inhaling ultra-fine particles depend on particle composition, but the results can range from respiratory irritation to more severe illness such as cardiovascular problems or cancer," professor Lidia Morawska, one of the researchers, said in a news release from the university.
The researchers found that particulate matter levels were higher during the work day inside an air-conditioned nonsmoking office building in Brisbane than outside near a roadway. They soon zeroed in on laser printers as culprits, and tested 62 throughout the six-story building over a 48-hour period.
Forty percent of the printers tested emitted tiny particles, and 27 percent of those were high-emitters. A follow-up test of some printers found that particle emissions started as soon as a printer started operating.
Particle emissions varied depending on the type of printer and age of the printer and cartridge, but the highest printer particle emitting rate was close to that of a prior test of cigarette smoking in a residential home, the study said.
Robert Hamers, UW-Madison chemistry department chairman, who is associate director of the UW's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, said the study is important.
"Laser printers can be a significant source of particle emissions and could potentially be a health risk," he said, but added that comparing printer emissions to cigarette smoke was not valid because the particles are made up of entirely different things.
"This study does not show in any convincing way that it is comparable to cigarette smoke. This study is based on the number of particles, but the kinds of particles are quite different," Hamers said. "Cigarette smoke contains polyaromatic hydrocarbons and cyanide and other materials. Emissions from printers are more like soot."
Carbon emissions can be hazardous, however. Chimney sweeps used to get testicular cancer, and coal miners get black lung disease, Hamers said.
"This is certainly something that we need to do more investigation on," he added. "It is an important issue because there is a lot of evidence that particles in the air contribute to asthma and other health effects. But a lot of health effects can be dependent on the chemical composition of the particles."
Environmental testing for air quality focuses on particles that are about one-fiftieth the diameter of a human hair or less.
The nearest printer was about 13 feet from the testing device, which was a condensation particle counter.
Printers, not photocopiers, were the main source of particles.
Of 42 printer models tested, 34 were manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, so that company's printers made up almost all of the high-emission printers. According to the study, high-emission laser printers were: HP Color LaserJet 4650dn, HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn, HP Color LaserJet 8550N, HP LaserJet 1320N, HP LaserJet 1320n, HP LaserJet 2420dn, HP LaserJet 4200dtn, HP LaserJet 4250n, HP LaserJet 5(a), HP LaserJet 8000N, HP LaserJet 8150N and Toshiba Studio 450.
Hewlett-Packard could not be reached for comment prior to deadline, but a company spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle that HP has been working with scientists to study emissions, but hasn't been able to determine the chemical composition of emissions or their source in the printing system.
"HP believes that all laser printers emit nanoparticles to one degree or another," Emily Horn told the Chronicle.
Hamers noted that the study did not answer whether the printer or the toner cartridge was the source of the emissions.
"Sometimes you can get high-capacity toner cartridges or low-capacity cartridges for the same printer. It was not clear if emission differences were due to printer design or the cartridge itself. This study raises more questions than it solves, but that is the mark of a good study. You have to follow it up," Hamers said.
The researchers reporting the study were Morawska, Congrong He and Len Taplin. The study was financed by the Queensland Department of Public Works. Morawska said the study highlighted a need for governments to regulate particle emissions from laser printers. "Governments regulate emissions levels from outdoor devices such as vehicles, power stations and factories, so why not for printers?" she asked.
She suggested that people place printers in well-ventilated areas of offices and homes to allow airborne particles to disperse.
Aussie Nanny State Ping-Worthy?
We had an old printer that used to reek of burning toner each time it printer. I dealt with that smell for a over 2 years until we finally replaced it. After reading this article, I asked my boss if I could claim workmans’ comp for this... he laughed at me. =(
And mother’s milk may contain cancer cells.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
The Copy Machines must be the SUV of the office?........
*Sigh* You know, in the end, EVERYBODY dies. Safety is important, but we’ve reached a point where people need to stop worrying about any small thing that could kill them and just start enjoying life.
The sun causes cancer too!
Looks as if my HP1320 is sending out multiple posts.
Heck, I drink milk, eat meat, love my beer and ice cream on occasion. I don’t need to worry about the laser printer sitting right next to my desk because I will die.... eventually, no matter what I do.
“Photocopying Your @ss Could be Hazardous to Your Career.”
Carry on! :)
I use only soy ink in my laser printers.
And I grind the soy beans fresh every morning!
Especially when used to print love letters......
This is Nanny State Ping worthy just because “we told you so.”
It doesn't mean that we're getting rid of laser printers, it just means that there could be an unseen problem to acknowledge. I can see somebody fixing this with an airflow system and filter, but nobody's going to invent one until somebody figures out that there's a possible problem. It would take just a relative few dollars of technology, and you wouldn't have to do it on "home" machines that print relatively few pages. In an office environment where there are thousands of pages being printed each hour, the cost per page would be quite small.
As Algore would sing: “Oh, what a terrible world”.