Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
Toner ink is generally comprised of carbon black and plastic resin in combination with other additives. Although carbon black is classified as a nuisance dust, meaning it is only mildly toxic by itself, it contains impurities that are known carcinogens, according to Photocopier and Laser Printer Hazards from The London Hazards Centre. When utilised, toners can sometimes emit harmful particles that can irritate and damage the lungs, and evidence suggests that prolonged exposure to printer toner can have more serious health repercussions.
According to a 2007 study by the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, certain laser printers emit particles thought to be toner. Seventeen out of 62 printers were found to generate particle emissions, and one printer did so at a rate comparable to cigarette smoke emissions. The particles' small size makes them a significant health threat, according to the study, because they can be easily inhaled and lodge in the smallest and deepest passageways of the lungs. The study also noted that side effects from inhalation can be as mild as simple irritation to serious illness, such as cardiovascular problems and cancer. Research from the study also found that more particles were usually emitted when the printer was printing photos or graphics, both of which require more toner. Using a brand-new toner cartridge also resulted in this problem. Those with respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and asthma, are even more at risk from toner powder inhalation, according to Printer Cartridges information on printer toner safety.
Skin & Eye Irritation
According to Photocopier and Laser Printer Hazards from The London Hazards Centre, protective gloves should always be worn when handling toners. Toner that comes in contact with the tongue from touching copied paper with a wet finger can result in growths on the tongue. Eye irritation, headache and skin irritation can also occur. Maintenance workers who are repeatedly exposed to toner are most at risk for skin and eye irritation, which can lead to skin and eye sensitisation.
Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Carbon monoxide is produced when toners containing carbon black are heated in a space that is not well ventilated. Side effects of carbon monoxide in poorly ventilated rooms include headaches, faintness, drowsiness and increased pulse rate. Carbon monoxide emissions are also a health risk for pregnant women because the gas can cross the placenta and affect the foetus.
Similar to Dust
Printer toner has been compared to dust in that it can remain in the air for long periods of time and cause bodily reactions, such as sneezing and coughing. Throwing printer cartridges away in wastebaskets or overfilled waste toner compartments can result in toner dust quickly spreading through the air much like dust, according to Printer Cartridges.
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images