August 1, 2007 5:31 AM PDT

Study: Laser printers may pose health risks

Emissions from office laser printers can be as unhealthy as cigarette smoke, according to an Australian professor who is now calling for regulations to limit printer emissions.

Office workers breathing easy since smoking was banned in public places in the United States and the United Kingdom have new reason to worry, according to research from the Queensland University of Technology's Air Quality and Health Program, led by physics professor Lidia Morawska.

The average printer releases toner particles that can get deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems and cardiovascular trouble, according to Morawska's team, part of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, and specialists in atmospheric particles.

The team tested 62 laser printer models--all relatively new--and found that 17 of them were "high emitters" of toner particles. Despite using similar technology, office photocopiers do not emit particles, the team found.

The particles have not had a full chemical analysis, but some are potential carcinogens, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. Several of the high emitters were Hewlett-Packard LaserJet models, such as the 1320 and 4250, although eight HP LaserJet 4050 series printers were shown to have no emissions, according to reports.

The printer emissions data were discovered by chance when an investigation of office ventilation systems, carried out jointly between the university and the Queensland Department of Public Works, found five times as many particles indoors as those produced by traffic outdoors. Using an electronic sniffer, researchers traced the emissions to printers. The emissions were found to increase during the day, when printers were left on standby or in full operation.

Following the revelation, Morawska's team tested their own printers and moved the unhealthy ones away from people. The researchers are now calling for regulations on printer emissions. The study included Canon, HP LaserJet, Ricoh and Toshiba printers. The university had not released comprehensive results by the time this story was published.

HP said it was currently assessing the study's findings.

"Vigorous tests under standardized operating conditions are an integral part of HP's research and development, and its strict quality-control procedures," the company said in a statement. "As part of these quality controls, HP assesses its LaserJet printing systems, original HP print cartridges and papers for dust release and possible material emissions to ensure compliance with applicable international health and safety requirements."

Peter Judge and David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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16 comments

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Purposeful emmissions?
Fact: Toner costs thousands of dollars per gallon.
Fact: The more toner you use, the more money the toner manufacturer makes.
Hypothetical: Are the printer/toner manufacturers purposefully "blowing" toner out to increase your toner usage and make more money without knowing they are potentially endangering your health?

I'm not saying... just saying.
Posted by DatabaseDoctor (858 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yea, okay...
But here is the hole in your theory, the fines and legal
ramifications if that little scheme was discovered would take
down the largest company and/or all of it's executives. That is a
little risky to make maybe one extra sale of toner over the
course of the lifetime of a printer.

Why do people always have to look for the conspiracy theory?
Occam's Razor strikes again people:
? entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, ?
which translates to:
? entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. ?
--From Wikipedia.org
Posted by beubanks7507 (49 comments )
Link Flag
Plausible
I might not go so far as to say they are intentionally blowing out extra toner, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were intentionally not stopping it.
Posted by No_Man (77 comments )
Link Flag
Printer List
Is there a link for the report or a list of printers tested?
Posted by btrogdon (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE: List
Indeed I have been looking for the same thing without luck.
Posted by Ogdensign (4 comments )
Link Flag
Printer list more
Haven't found the full list yet but contacted and received a courteous reply from origanator that leads me to think I may soon.
Posted by Ogdensign (4 comments )
Link Flag
Printer List
There is a list of the high-level emitters here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/01/PRINTERS.TMP&#38;tsp=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/01/PRINTERS.TMP&#38;tsp=1</a>
Posted by fiberoptix (1 comment )
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So where's the news?
What *is* surprising is that some devices, like the copiers, didn't emit as much of the deadly vapor or dust. Maybe, they didn't stick the probes in the right place during their tests.

Anyone who's ever changed a toner cartridge must have known that that crap is unhealthy! I didn't need a scientific study to tell me that!
Posted by albertsoler (412 comments )
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Effects of Laser Printer Toner
I have scars on my lungs. I have worked at a company for 20 years and most of that time my desk was sitting very close to a HP laser printer. Because the printer was faster than the one in the payroll department, the weekly company pay checks were printed on that printer. It was some time before I realized that every time the checks were printed, I felt sick and had trouble breathing. The checks were printed using Micro toner. I later found out that Micro toner contains Silica. I researched Silica and toner on the Internet and found out that Silica causes cancer. I do not have cancer but my lungs will never get better.
Posted by mbarlag (1 comment )
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NOT "new" news...
A friend of mine (who I anticipate making some posts here shortly) used to be involved in servicing and repairing laser printers -- at least until he was diagnosed with cancer (which leads to a whole different story)...

But the point was that he mentioned happening to save some "Internal Distribution Only" email messages which basically explained that new safety procedures were being put into place due to recent findings re: the hazards of ~breathing~ around working laser printers.

And at the time, my thought was "and when was anyone planning to tell the general public about this??" and something on the order of "hasn't anyone learned from PREVIOUS rounds of litigation re: known hazards that haven't been publicized??"

Potentially a hit against the printer industry? This could backfire in bigger ways than that, particularly if anyone manages to create safety legislation that THEN gets cross-linked to some form of "nanotechnology safety requirements" -- since we're in many ways talking about the same potential for airborne dispersal of micro-fine contaminants...
Posted by flared0ne (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Solution to unhealthy printers
We've all known for years what a mess toner can be. Now to find out that it could also be a health risk is of great concern.

Once solution is to use technology that does not require toner such as the solid ink technology from Xerox. The Phaser 8560 printers use a solid, wax based form of ink that has many unique benefit over toner based laser products. Lower cost per print, lower maintenance expense, higher reliability and faster speeds, it's earth friendly and poses no health risk in the work place.

FreePrinters.com (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.FreePrinters.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.FreePrinters.com</a>) is pleased to use only solid ink printers in the free printer program that also features free on-site service.
Posted by dwalthers (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Laser Paper and Toner
We need to also to look at the health risk of the paper that is going though the 500 + degree fuser. Much of the paper currently being used in lasers, is coming from Asia. I personally feel that this paper has high levels of chemicals in it.

I have over 15 years in the Laser Repair Business, so I know a little about what I speak of.

As far as toner goes, I agree that it poses a real health risk. Many companies are using remanufactured toners that don't come from the OEM, so I think the health risk may be higher with thoses toner. One reason is that they tend to leak more the OEM toners.
Posted by bobfin (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Laser Study-Interesting
Very informative. Even though it's Australian based study, is there a U.S. study on Laser Printers and their potential safety risks? If there is, can it be posted. Or perhaps one should be done??
Posted by catnipmouse (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What will be the Replacement of Laser printers?
If <a href="http://www.digitivity.com/printing-devices/">laser printers</a> are "high emitters" of toner particles then what will be their replacement. Printing is a need of every office or company. Working without laser printers is next to impossible. Either <a href="http://www.digitivity.com/printing-devices/">laser printers</a> 'll have to be improved or replaced by printers with some new technology.
Posted by aanaedwards (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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