But They’re Low In Tar!

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!”

13 thoughts on “But They’re Low In Tar!”

  1. I once worked for a company that was trying to make a high resolution laser printer (>1270 dpi).
    I asked my boss why they don’t just use finer particle dry toner. His response .. “ever heard of asbestosis ?” Toner particles go in the lungs and, just like asbestos, never come out.

  2. I suspect that printers that use solid ink blocks instead of toner will be beneficiaries of this study. I know the Xerox Phaser printers are examples, but I don’t know if there are any others. The solid ink is melted and sprayed on the paper. They look like laser printers and produce very similar output.
    I like the solid ink concept, which is why I got one of those printers, but I never thought of the toner particle angle until seeing this post.

  3. Cure for the toner problem: Use graphite, it’s not a carcinogen. Of course, that means we’re back to pencils. BTW, has anyone studied the environmental impact of pencil sharpeners in classrooms?
    Question: Is printer toner a carcinogen? If not, don’t worry about it unless that toner is hanging in the air like a black cloud.

  4. I wonder how long it will take before printer manufactures start promoting their products as: Laser Lite Printers. Half the particulates! Twice the speed!

  5. This is news? Some years ago, I worked for company X, and, on the other side of the partition by my workstation was one of those big industrial-style printers. One day, while clearing up a paper jam, I noticed that said printer actually had a “blast shadow” from where it was constantly spewing toner into the air.

  6. So every office in Kalifornia will now carry a cancer warning sign? Will printers be outlawed to the parking lot? After all, it’s “for the children”.

  7. Anybody who has changed the toner in a Minolta copier (big plastic can of loose toner) will see right up front what a problem a fine black plastic powder is going to be. It’s every bit as nasty as coal dust.
    Fifty years from now, we’ll be seeing disability claims for a new kind of black lung disease.

  8. If human lungs are as vulnerable as these studies suggest, we should not still be alive as a species.
    I have worked around copiers and large printers for many years, and the only time they emit dust is when they are being changed or are broken.
    Neither happens very often.
    I think this is yet another study like the early ones about SUVs or the climate that are simply thinly veiled attempts to shut down yet more commerce that actuallyhelps people.

  9. The key is whether or not the tone can really get airborne. The finer the particles, the more likely it will get airborne.

  10. It’s a conspiracy. Con = together. Spira= breathe.
    We survived soap box derbies, tree houses, see-saws and rope swings; i suspect we’ll weather this.

  11. Don’t buy the kool-aid about environmental tobacco smoke–it is no more dangerous to bystanders than allowing co-workers with colds in the office. No one’s health is being protected by these bans.
    The research? The research of politically active scientists cannot be trusted. Period.

  12. the study did not identify the particles so do not assume toner. the study was in an enclosed space i.e. worse case scenario. Dilution is the solution. Too many conclusions before the facts are all in. proceed with caution.

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