We are not afraid of “laser” in laser printers, because it is highly unlikely one would get burnt with it. Yet, laser printer is the device that may be a source of “phantom menace”.
A group of Australian scientists revealed that office laser printers could be causing as much danger to the lung as cigarettes do. It is all a matter of ultra-fine particles contained in printer toner. Lidia Morawska, a professor from Queensland University of Technology and one of the study heads, comments on the discovery:
Ultra-fine particles are of most concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs where they can pose a significant health threat. These particles are tiny like cigarette smoke particles and, when deep inside the lung, they do the same amount of damage. The health effects from inhaling ultra-fine particles depend on particle composition, but the results can range from respiratory irritation to more severe illness such as cardiovascular problems or cancer.
The study was conducted in a typical six-story office building and showed that level of particulates in the office was lower than outdoors during off hours. However, during business hours level of particulates rapidly rose up to 500%. Sitting in an office like this is like being outdoors by a busy road.Further investigation narrowed possible sources of excessive particulates emission to laser printers. Having figured out the source of menace, the scientists monitored 62 laser printers including, for most part, HPs with a small number of Canon, Ricoh, and Toshiba printer. The monitoring produced these results: 37 laser printers didn’t emit a thing, 17 printers had high level of emission, while the rest of printers stuck in between the two groups. Yet, no clear pattern was found of how emission level relates with different machine makes, models, etc.
However, it was determined that larger amount of pages printed, as well as density of text and graphics on the page, increases the particulates emission level, since more toner is used. The age of the laser toner cartridge affects both amount of hazardous particles produced and their average size. The older toner cartridge is, the fewer particles it emits. This makes it sensible to use remanufactured toner cartridges for your laser printer and to ventilate your office well during business hours.