Beware of the Laser Printer

macEfan

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 7, 2005
1,210
7
Warning, Long Post!
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/08/01/MNFBRAN0J2.DTL&tsp=1

SF Gate.com said:
If you work near certain models of laser printers, you might be breathing the same amount of ultra-fine particle pollution as if a smoker were puffing away in the next cubicle, according to a study by Australian scientists.
In one of the first studies of laser printers in a work setting, researchers found that some models are sources of ultra-fine particles that contribute to indoor air pollution. Breathing tiny particles can cause respiratory irritation and more severe illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
Almost half of the laser printers tested in the study emitted tiny particles of toner-like material, sending out concentrations ranging from low to high, according to the study findings published online today for the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The worst printers released amounts of ultra-fine particles rivaling plumes of secondhand smoke. When inhaled, the particles - tiny flecks between 100 and 1,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair - can work their way deep into the lungs, leading to heart and lung disease, scientists say.
Laser printers in the study were manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Ricoh and Canon. All use toner, a powder used instead of ink.
Neither the state nor federal governments regulate indoor air pollution, even though most people spend about 90 percent of their lives inside buildings.
"If a printer operates in an indoor environment, the concentration of ultra-fine particles would be of the same order of magnitude as if there was secondhand smoke in a similar environment," said author Lidia Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology in an interview from Brisbane.
"Even very small concentrations can be related to health hazards," she said. "Where the concentrations are significantly elevated means there is potentially a considerable hazard."
A worker's exposure level depends on the effectiveness of the building's ventilation. The study also found that during work hours, printer use caused indoor air pollution to increase fivefold.
Study results imply that "concentration levels in an office can be reduced by a proper choice of printers," Morawska said.
Some printer manufacturers responded that their products meet safety and health requirements. HP officials, for example, said they are reviewing the study and have been conducting their own tests.
Morawska worked with fellow study authors, university colleague Congrong He and Len Taplin of the Queensland Department of Public Works. The department partially financed the study.
The researchers first went into a six-story office building in Brisbane with the intent of testing the efficacy of the ventilation system. They measured emissions from office equipment and found that the laser printers put out the most ultra-fine particles.
The building had 62 laser printers. Of 42 different models found, 34 models were manufactured by HP, five by Ricoh, two by Toshiba and one by Canon.
After testing all of the printers at a distance of about 2 feet, the researchers divided them into four different categories. Twenty-three models fell in the non-emitter category, four in the low category, two in the medium category and thirteen in the high category.
The results were verified by tests repeated in a special laboratory chamber. The researchers tested one machine in each of the emissions categories, Morawska said.
"In the chamber, we were able to look at the effect of the toner and see whether the age of the cartridge made a difference. Emissions were higher with a newer cartridge and when there was a greater density of toner coverage," she said.
For almost two years, HP has been working with scientists to study emissions from laser printers, company spokeswoman Emily Horn wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle. To date, HP hasn't been able to determine the chemical composition of the ultra-fine particles, nor has it been able to trace the source in the printing system, she said.
"HP believes that all laser printers emit nanoparticles to one degree or another," Horn wrote. Emissions come from a variety of sources in the printer, and while the number of particles emitted is high, they're so tiny that it's difficult to collect a sample large enough to analyze, she wrote.
Past studies have shown that photocopy machines also release tiny particles. But in the Brisbane office building, the researchers found that the copiers were not nearly as problematic as the laser printers, Morawska said.
Other studies that have focused on office air pollution have shown that the pollutant ozone - which can come into buildings from the outdoors or be created by machines like printers or copiers - can mix in the air with organic substances, such as solvents in air fresheners or floor cleaners. That mixture can create new kinds of indoor particles, such as a formaldehyde-like chemical that enters the lungs when inhaled.
The Australian study didn't look at whether ozone contributed to the particle emissions. HP believes that the issue of ozone is largely of the past because of technological changes in the printers that cause them not to emit the pollutant.
Scientists need to do more study on the human health effects of ultra-fine particles from office equipment, said Charles J. Weschler, an indoor air pollution expert and professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University.
Only a few studies focus on the health effects of indoor air pollution while damage caused by ultra-fine particles out of doors is well understood, he said.
"We still have a great deal to learn regarding the consequences of indoor inhalation and ultra-fine particles," Weschler said.
At the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, environmental chemists Hugo Destaillats and Randy Maddalena praised the Australian paper and said it pointed toward areas where future studies are needed. The two scientists are examining how the chemical particles are produced from laser printers and computers and what the particles are made of. They, too, said they don't yet know the chemical composition of the toner-like material.
Russell Marchetta, a spokesman for Ricoh Americas Corp., which has main offices in West Caldwell, N.J., said his company is pleased that out of five printers, four showed no emissions and one showed low emissions. Toshiba executives did not return calls seeking comment.
Online resources
Read the study:
www.sfgate.com/ZND
Printer pollution
Printer pollution
Printer tests showed levels of ultra-fine particle pollution:
High-level emitters
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 cartridge)
HP LaserJet 4250n (new cartridge)
HP LaserJet 5(a) (further study needed)
*HP LaserJet 8000DN
HP LaserJet 8150N
Toshiba Studio 450
Mid-level emitters
HP LaserJet 1020
HP LaserJet 4200dtn
Low-level emitters
Canon IRC6800
HP LaserJet 5M
HP LaserJet 9000dn
Ricoh CL3000DN
Non-emitters
HP Color LaserJet 4550DN
HP Color LaserJet 8500DN
HP LaserJet 2200DN
HP LaserJet 2300dtn
HP LaserJet 4 plus
HP LaserJet 4000N
HP LaserJet 4000TN
HP LaserJet 4050N
HP LaserJet 4050TN
HP LaserJet 4si
HP LaserJet 5(b) (further study needed)
HP LaserJet 5000n
HP LaserJet 5100tn
HP LaserJet 5N
HP LaserJet 5si
HP LaserJet 5si/NX
HP LaserJet 8000DN
HP LaserJet 8150DN
Ricoh Aficio 2022
Ricoh Aficio 3045
Ricoh Aficio 3245C
Ricoh Aficio CC3000DN
Toshiba Studio 350
*possible high emitter
Source: International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
E-mail Jane Kay at jkay@sfchronicle.com.
scary thought...we always seem to be finding stuff that could kill us these days...guess its time to get rid of my old laser printer that was from 1997....
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
1,466
Palookaville
Printing could be hazardous to your health

Are we breathing second-hand toner?

A study finds that laser printers may emit high levels of potentially hazardous particles.

That laser printer sitting on your desk could be emitting high levels of potentially hazardous particles, according to a study published today.

Some printers released almost as many ultra-fine particles as a smoldering cigarette, the study authors said.

There have been few studies on the health hazards of printing, and the current research, appearing in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, provides the most extensive look yet at particle emissions of office printers, including Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh and Toshiba models. The researchers did not analyze what the particles consisted of.

"Particles have been shown beyond any doubt to be a health hazard," said study author Lidia Morawska, a physicist at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Inhaling fine particles can cause health problems ranging from respiratory irritation to cardiovascular problems and cancer, depending on the particle composition, Morawska said.

The emissions varied widely among printers. Morawska and her colleagues classified 37 printers as non-emitters, eight as medium or low emitters, and 17 as high emitters.

Among the machines that had no emissions were eight HP LaserJet 4050 series printers and four Ricoh Aficio models.

High emitters included the HP LaserJet 1320 and 4250, which, when printing, increased the particle number in the air more than tenfold.

The study did not consider variables such as printer age or cartridge type, leading to variations even among printers of the same model. The scientists noted that they found one HP LaserJet 5 to be a high emitter, while another was a non-emitter.

Hewlett-Packard, maker of the LaserJet printers, responded that it tests all products for dust emissions and follows international health and safety requirements.

Morawska did not originally set out to study printers. She was invited by the Queensland Department of Public Works to measure air quality inside a six-floor office building near a busy road.

The scientists quickly noticed that during the workday, particle levels were much higher indoors than out. Indoor levels reached as high as 625,986 particles per square inch, compared with 178,619 particles per square inch outside the building.

Printers were clearly the culprit: Copy machines and a break room microwave were not main particle sources.

The researchers then analyzed air quality near each printer after it had printed one page, and used this data to categorize printers by the amount of particles released. Particle levels rose as soon as the printer started.

The scientists then chose three printers — a low, medium and high emitter — for further studies inside a closed chamber.

A newer toner cartridge released more particles than an older cartridge, the scientists found. Printers also emitted more particles when printing toner-heavy documents such as graphics.

The study primarily considered particles less than a micrometer in size, but the authors noted that even the printers labeled as non-emitters might be releasing larger particles, which are also potentially hazardous to human health.

Other studies have found printers to emit volatile organic compounds and ozone as well as toner particles.

Morawska recommends that homes and offices have adequate ventilation to ensure that the printer particles are dispersed.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-printers1aug01,1,2550555.story
 

Leareth

macrumors 68000
Nov 11, 2004
1,569
6
Vancouver
How bored are our scientists today to study printer emissions?:confused:
Well good thing they were bored or otherwise we would not know this. :rolleyes:

One a more serious response : most gov't and big businesses monitor air quality and content in offices. Probably noticed the toner in the samples and found it levels to be surprisingly high.
makes sense - at my job the printer room is separate and very well ventilated.
 

ezekielrage_99

macrumors 68040
Oct 12, 2005
3,336
16
Dam scientists taking the fun out of everything.....

First it was smoking, then nuclear power, now global warming and stupid laser printers, I should just live in a test tube and eat cardboard.
 

Makosuke

macrumors 603
Aug 15, 2001
6,163
346
The Cool Part of CA, USA
Interesting because I just recently put a new Ricoh laser in, and I noticed that the manual specifically warned against using it with inadequate ventilation due to ozone production and other forms of indoor pollution.

I'm pretty glad to see the Ricohs at the bottom of the particulate list, to be sure.

And while there are certainly more serious things to worry about in the world than printer pollution, considering that a significant percentage of the population of the industrial world works in offices with laser printers around (hell, it's pretty hard to find a business outside of retail and food service that DOESN'T have one somewhere), if it's actually as bad as second hand smoke that's worth checking out.

It'd probably be more dangerous than a whole lot of other things I can think of that people worry about.
 

Eric5h5

macrumors 68020
Dec 9, 2004
2,407
431
I should just live in a test tube and eat cardboard.
Scientists have determined that eating cardboard is bad for you.

Seriously, it's confusing to me that anyone would think that research like this is pointless or a waste of time. Maybe they can, you know, fix the problem? So there's one less thing that can kill you? There's no sense worrying about everything, but there's equally no sense ignoring actual dangers.

--Eric
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
1,466
Palookaville
Probably noticed the toner in the samples and found it levels to be surprisingly high.
Article says they did not analyze the composition of the particles, so we don't know if the particulate they found is toner or some other byproduct of the printing process. This was a deliberate study of particle emissions from laser printers -- they didn't just stumble on the finding.
 

MacNut

macrumors Core
Jan 4, 2002
21,801
8,008
CT
Just think of all the toner they inhaled when they printed that report.:rolleyes:
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,021
316
.. London ..
Fully agree with this report. While I love my laser printers, they do make the air around them diabolical.

I remember at university in about 1995, they had a printing room with about 15 photocopiers and laser printers, all running flat out. In the winter, with the windows closed, that room was absolutely toxic. I could feel my throat tightening up after a couple of minutes in there. I felt sorry for staff who had to spend hours in there.
 

N10248

macrumors 6502a
Jun 11, 2004
635
115
Essex, U.K.
My company has 4 HP 8500 / 8550s, they're running all day.

Canon CP660's should be added to the list as they use the same HP chassis with a slightly different casing - them scientists should have known that :rolleyes:.

Toners are constantly jamming and leaking especially if compatibles are used, a while ago a whole room got a layer of pink dust all over it when a toner split and got sucked into the fans.

Bye
 

d_and_n5000

macrumors 6502a
Oct 6, 2005
631
0
Oh, yay. My school has both the HP 4000 and the color 4650. Does that mean that I should tell the media specialist to go and check with her doctor for lung disease? Those things both run almost constantly, they're right next to each other, and the 4000 is almost ten years old. Time to be concerned? Should they start testing copiers too? I'm sure that they're much worse, they're rather larger than your average laser printer, and most tend to have much larger volume going through them.

Or, alternatively, we can run with ErikCDLR's idea and fire off lawsuits. I'll call the lawyers! :rolleyes:
 

macEfan

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Apr 7, 2005
1,210
7
Oh, yay. My school has both the HP 4000 and the color 4650. Does that mean that I should tell the media specialist to go and check with her doctor for lung disease? Those things both run almost constantly, they're right next to each other, and the 4000 is almost ten years old. Time to be concerned? Should they start testing copiers too? I'm sure that they're much worse, they're rather larger than your average laser printer, and most tend to have much larger volume going through them.

Or, alternatively, we can run with ErikCDLR's idea and fire off lawsuits. I'll call the lawyers! :rolleyes:
Actually the Laserjet 4000 your school has is harmless....it's a non-emitter.... I guess age doesn't say how effective your printer is..... on the other hand your school's laserjet 4650 is something more to worry about....

At the office we have two Laserjet 4050's and luckily they are also in the non-emitters list. We used to have an Apple Laserwriter 8500, but it recently got taken out of service... I can only imagine how badly that thing must have smogged... you could smell the toner after every printed page...:D
 

ErikCLDR

macrumors 68000
Jan 14, 2007
1,795
0
We used to have apple laser printers at school haha. Actually one big huge one was used until last year when they finally took it out of commission because one of the rollers had rolled so much it turned squarish and made the paper jam.

Copy machines must be bad. I know one of them at my school, if you print a lot of pages it makes the entire room smell like toner.
 

d_and_n5000

macrumors 6502a
Oct 6, 2005
631
0
Actually the Laserjet 4000 your school has is harmless....it's a non-emitter.... I guess age doesn't say how effective your printer is..... on the other hand your school's laserjet 4650 is something more to worry about....

At the office we have two Laserjet 4050's and luckily they are also in the non-emitters list. We used to have an Apple Laserwriter 8500, but it recently got taken out of service... I can only imagine how badly that thing must have smogged... you could smell the toner after every printed page...:D
Oh. Didn't see the 'non emitter' heading. :eek: Doesn't stop my opinion that the thing needs replaced, though. The rollers are starting to go out on Tray 1. The 4650 can wait, though. Small private school + expensive printer = keep said printer as long as the thing is able to put toner to paper.


ErikCDLR said:
Copy machines must be bad. I know one of them at my school, if you print a lot of pages it makes the entire room smell like toner.
Oh, yeah, those things can get strong when you have them running for even a few minutes. Can't imagine how those stuck copying for hours straight can handle the smell—I suppose that after a while, you just get used to it.
 

mcarnes

macrumors 68000
Mar 14, 2004
1,929
1
USA! USA!
Well I'm not giving up my Canon 6550 now. I finally got the damn thing working wireless under VMware + XP. I can live with a little cancer after that!