Is Your Laser Printer Killing You?

Posted on August 7, 2007

We were horrified to find this article from CNET which says that emissions from certain laser printers can lodge deep in your lungs, eventually causing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Great, just great. And apparently, the printers pump out these poisons even when they are in standby mode. CNET says an Australian professor thinks printer emissions from laster printers are as unhealthy as cigarette smoke.

The average printer releases toner particles that can get deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems and cardiovascular trouble, according to Morawska's team, part of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, and specialists in atmospheric particles. The team tested 62 laser printer models--all relatively new--and found that 17 of them were "high emitters" of toner particles. Despite using similar technology, office photocopiers do not emit particles, the team found.

The particles have not had a full chemical analysis, but some are potential carcinogens, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. Several of the high emitters were Hewlett-Packard LaserJet models, such as the 1320 and 4250, although eight HP LaserJet 4050 series printers were shown to have no emissions, according to reports. The printer emissions data were discovered by chance when an investigation of office ventilation systems, carried out jointly between the university and the Queensland Department of Public Works, found five times as many particles indoors as those produced by traffic outdoors. Using an electronic sniffer, researchers traced the emissions to printers. The emissions were found to increase during the day, when printers were left on standby or in full operation.

Following the revelation, Morawska's team tested their own printers and moved the unhealthy ones away from people. The researchers are now calling for regulations on printer emissions. The study included Canon, HP LaserJet, Ricoh and Toshiba printers. The university had not released comprehensive results by the time this story was published.

CNET says the HP is running its only tests on the study's findings. No. Our printers are killing us... So, what's next? Our computer mice emit deadly gamma rays? Gel pens emit a deadly poison? Our staple removers...well, you get the idea. We are especially unhappy that they have not released a list of which models of printers are safe and which are not.

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