Laser printers could be hazardous to your health

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A study by Queensland University of Technology has, revealed that common laser printers emit potentially hazardous particles.

During the printing process, toner is melted and when it is hot, some of the compounds evaporate, which in turn cause vapours to nucleate or condense in the air, and form ultrafine particles.

Toner in fine powder form often remains suspended in the air for a considerable period of time and can have an effect on your health if inhaled. The particles penetrate deep into the lungs and can cause respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis.

In the 1970s a study found that Pyrrole, a contaminant used during the manufacture of carbon black for black toner, could cause health problems and as such manufacturing process had to be changed to eliminate its use in the finished product.

The recent study carried out by Queensland University of Technology compared a high-emitting printer with a low-emitting printer.

The likelihood of particles forming is increased by high temperature in the printer.

The study shows that the high emitting printer operated at a lower average temperature, but had rapid changes in heat, resulting in more condensable vapour being emitted from the printer.

Professor Lidia Morawska who led the study concluded: "The printer with better temperature control emitted fewer particles."

The University of Rostock in Germany also completed a study and found that microscopic particles in toners are carcinogenic (ie cancer producing substance); similar to asbestos. The Study has been observing several technicians working with printers and copiers on a daily basis for several years and results have revealed increased lung problems.

Emma Costin, Head of Occupational Disease at Simpson Millar comments:

"These studies are important because laser printers are such a commonplace item in our offices and homes. Employers have a duty not to expose their workers to foreseeable hazards, and manufacturers have similar duties with regard to their products. This research puts employers and manufacturers on notice of the potential hazard posed by these particles."

"I expect to be approached by increasing numbers of victims of lung disease who are seeking compensation through the Courts on the basis that ultrafine particles from printers have been implicated as the cause of their disease. "


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