Small dust particles emitted from printers can be harmful
Air pollution monitoring organisations have described the results of recent research showing the possible health hazards associated with the use of laser printers as “worrying”.
The latest concerns over particulate emissions from these devices arose after scientists at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) found almost a third of the 60 printer models they tested emitted dangerous ultra-tiny particles of toner into the air.
These particles are so small they could infiltrate the lungs and cause a range of health problems from respiratory irritation to more chronic illnesses.
The NSCA, when contacted by Computeractive, said these particles were also thought to “knock eight months of the average life expectancy.”
Ed Dearnley policy officer at the NSCA said:“This topic has been debated about for many years and the findings of this study are worrying as particle pollution is strongly linked to heart and lung illness in humans.
“We'd like to see further research in this area and, if the findings are confirmed, design changes in offending items to minimise indoor air pollution.”
The study by QUT, was originally conducted to find out the efficiency of ventilation systems and how well they protected offices from outdoor air pollutants. However, scientists changed their approach once they realised that air pollution was originating indoors from laser printers.
They carried out tests on printers from Canon, HP, Ricoh and Toshiba in an open-plan office where they found that particle levels increased five-fold during working hours.
The scientists also said the problem was worse when new cartridges were used and when graphics and images required higher quantities of toner. They advised people to put printers in a separate well ventilated room to minimise the health risks.
Both the LHC and NSCA agreed with the advice claiming it would not only help minimise exposure to any harmful particles emitted by printers but also ozone emissions. The organisations said this latter hazard has for a “good few years been associated with laser printers and photocopiers.”
Mick Holder, advice worker at the LHC said: “Both photocopiers and laser printers are known to emit ozone which have the same harmful health effects as these dust particles.
“We therefore advise companies to put these into the same ventilated areas as laser printers until more research is undertaken.”
Computeractive contacted HP and Cannon, which said they would be reviewing the research and their products. In a statement HP said:
“Vigorous tests under standardised operating conditions are an integral part of HP’s research and development and its strict quality control procedures.
“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.”
Lexmark and Epson, did not have printers in this particular study, but both said that their products complied with a range of government regulations in Europe. They said they would continue to test and monitor their products to ensure customer safety.
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