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Laser Printers Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Last week, researchers from Queensland University of Technology in Australia published a study that indicates that some laser printers create as much fine-particle pollution as cigarette smoke. The researchers warn that laser printer-emitted pollution can affect people's lungs in the same way that cigarettes can, making it a legitimate health threat to people who work around active laser printers in poorly ventilated spaces. The researchers also warn that beyond posing a threat to lung health, exposure to laser printer pollution can ultimately increase one's risk of developing cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

Here are the key findings reported in this study:

  1. New toner cartridges and graphic-heavy printing projects tend to emit the most ultra-fine powder -- believed to be toner -- into the air.

  2. Some well known brand printers release enough toner into the air to increase the total amount of fine particles in a typical office environment by 500 percent during work hours.

  3. Seventeen of the 62 printers that were tested were categorized as "high particle emitters." Specific models that were identified as high or potentially high emitters are as follows:

    • HP Color LaserJet 4650dn
    • HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn
    • HP Color LaserJet 8550N
    • HP LaserJet 1320N
    • HP LaserJet 1320n
    • HP LaserJet 2420dn
    • HP LaserJet 4200dtn
    • HP LaserJet 4250n (old)
    • HP LaserJet 4250n (new)
    • HP LaserJet 5(a)
    • HP LaserJet 8000DN
    • HP LaserJet 8150N
    • Toshiba Studio 450

  4. Thirty-seven of the 62 printers that were tested did not release particles that compromised air quality, six released low levels, and two released medium levels.

  5. Printers that were tested to be in the non-emission category were made by Toshiba, Mita, Ricoh, and HP LaserJet.

  6. Low-level emitters were made by Canon, Ricoh, and HP.

  7. The two printers that were categorized as mid-level emitters were made by HP.

The findings in this study were stumbled upon by accident while researchers were testing the efficiency of ventilating systems in different office settings. They quickly found that laser printers were diminishing air quality.

The bottom line: If you work in an office that requires regular use of one or more laser printers, do what you can to keep a steady stream of fresh air coming into your work space. Ideally, you want to keep two windows open to establish unidirectional air flow.

 
 

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Comments

Dear Dr. Kim, thanks for all you efforts to improve others' health and well being. I got your newsletter once I determined that your efforts are largely free of self-interest, but aimed at a professional goal of being the most helpful that you can be to your clients and others.

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Best regards,
Bill Carr
Williamsburg, VA

Dr. Kim,
Thank you for providing this article. I work right next to a laser printer every workday. It is not one of the 17 mentioned, though I'm curious if we can see the entire list.

Also, i'm in one of those buildings with lots of windows, but none open! I won't get started on that rant ;-)

Any suggestions for those of us with windows that won't open? I do have lots of light, fortuntately, so my spider plant is very happy and has lots of "babies."

I also try to get outside at least a few times a day while at the office. For instance, after using the washroom, i walk outside the building and come in the front door entrance. Gives me a mental break and a chance to breathe outside air.

The management here is funny about what they let us plug in, so i'm not sure that i can use an ionizer and not sure if that would help.

thanks again for this info.