Smokers have spent the last few years exiled to the outdoors in order to service their addiction during working hours. A new study in Australia might give them some company — laser printers and copiers:
The office printer causes frustration when it isn’t working but it may be posing as much danger to staff as smoking a cigarette when it is, scientists in Australia said.
An investigation into 62 laser printers revealed that 17 of them — almost 30 per cent — released high amounts of minute toner particles into the air.
Professor Lidia Morawska from the Queensland University of Technology, who led the research, said: “Ultra-fine particles are of most concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs where they can pose a significant health threat. …
The study, conducted in a large open-plan office in central Brisbane, showed that particles increased five-fold during working hours.
Emissions were worst when new cartridges were used, and when graphics and images which required larger quantities of toner were being printed.
The American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science and Technology, will publish the study later this week. It will reportedly include a list of popular printer brands with an index of emissions for each model. It will allow employers to select the lowest-emission choices for the work environment, as well as launch a million lawsuits around the world.
How did the researchers stumble on this gold mine for the legal profession? They actually wanted to test ventilation systems in offices to see how well they kept outdoor pollutants from nearby roads. When they began testing office environments, they didn’t find disturbing levels of outdoor pollutants, but were surprised to see the printer particle levels reach levels “far higher” than anything from outside.
The researchers said that workers who spent months and years exposed to these high particulate levels could be at high risk for pulmonary diseases. Determination of the potential for Laserjet Lung will have to be conducted in further studies. However, don’t be terribly surprised to see commercials soon that ask, “Have you worked near a laser printer for more than a few months? You may be owed compensation! Dial 800-SUE-HAPI for more information!”