Health risks of laser printers

Written by charlie higgins
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If you work in an office filled with laser printers, you may not be aware that these machines present a potential health threat to you and your co-workers. A study at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, revealed that some laser printers pollute the air with microscopic toner particles that are potentially hazardous to one's health. Be aware of the risks of laser printers and know the facts so you can spread the word about their possible dangers.

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Release of Particles

While not all of the 62 laser printers tested in the study were identified as being harmful, 17 printers sold in the United States and Australia were identified as "high particle emitters." One printer even released concentrations of particles at a rate comparable to cigarette smoking. Most of the particles detected are considered ultra fine, meaning they are tiny enough to seep into the small passageways and membranes in your lungs. Professor Lidia Morawska, the Aussie scientist who lead the study, stated "In the printing process, toner is melted and when it is hot, certain compounds evaporate and those vapours then nucleate or condense in the air, forming ultra fine particles."

Health Risks

The specific health risks of laser printers are still largely unknown. However, Morawska speculated about these health risks stating "because these particles are so small, there is a very high probability for these particles to deposit in the deepest alveoli in the lung." According to Dr. Mallika Marshall, these particles could lead to changes in the blood and promote heart disease and cancer-causing toxins.

What You Can Do

Although studies of laser printers are still relatively new, it is recommended that you place your laser printer in a well-ventilated area of your home or office. Try not to sit too close to your laser printer and do whatever you can to minimise the use of it while you are breathing the air around it. Research low- or no-emission printers and use this information to make informed choices the next time you purchase a laser printer or decide to work in an office with laser printers.

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