A recent issue of Environmental Science and Technology features research done on office printers of all kinds has shown that they may be emitting high levels of ultra fine toner particles which can pose health risks to those in long term exposure to them. This risk was determined to be in 30-40% of the 62 printers tested including Canon, HP, Toshiba, and Ricoh as well as laser printers of these brands. The particles are said to possibly be as dangerous as inhaling cigarette smoke. One of the brand tested, HP, disagrees with the conclusions of the study, insisting that their printers are safe.

Of those that were known to emit the dangerous particles, many were considered to be high-level emitter. This depended on the age of the toner cartridge and the amount of toner a document required. They believe the particles get into the air depending on how the cartridges use dry toner or the wear and age of the machine. The amount of particles being dispersed through the air was found to be five times higher during working hours than nonworking hours and 3.5 times higher than outside particles.

The danger in these particles is a combination of the fact that the particles are up to 1,000 times smaller than a dust particle so that it is able to be drawn into tiny sacs of the lungs as well as the chemical composition of the particle and how it can affect the organ. The research team also found that some of the types of particles found being transmitted from the printers were also those that people are exposed to from doing other activities such as candle burning and making toast. Still, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 90% of a person’s time is spent indoors so most of the pollution that they are exposed to comes from indoor sources. With long-term exposure to these kinds of pollutants, people run the risk of developing allergies, respiratory illness, or potentially other serious conditions. Until more research is done and the results are confirmed, it is safest if printers are placed in well-ventilated areas and exposure is limited.

For related articles visit http://www.livescience.com/health/070805_ap_printer_health.html. and

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1650602,00.html?cnn=yes.

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