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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Likbez: Printer Precautions

MTA study warns of ultrafine particles.
Laser printers may be spewing out more than just paper, possibly producing dangerous levels of tiny particles that are as hazardous as inhaling cigarette smoke, a recent study found.

A Queensland University of Technology study concluded that about one-quarter of the laser printer models tested were "high particle emitters," in a report published in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science and Technology journal.

"Ultrafine particles are of most concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs where they can pose a significant health threat," professor Lidia Morawska, who conducted the study, said in a written statement.

The indoor particle levels of an open-plan office building were tested as part of the study, and the study linked printer use to the fivefold increase in particle levels that surfaced during working hours.

Newer toner cartridges as well as printing jobs that involved larger quantities of toner also seemed to boost the level of particles emitted, the study found.

Officials at Hewlett-Packard fired back, calling the study's results into question.

"After a preliminary review of the Queensland University of Technology research on particle emission characteristics of office printers, HP does not agree with its conclusion or some of the bold claims the authors have made recently in press reports," a company spokesperson said in a written statement. "HP stands behind the safety of its products. Testing of ultrafine particles is a very new scientific discipline. There are no indications that ultrafine particle (UFP) emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks."

Morawska said given the results of the study, lawmakers ought to weigh in on the matter as well.

"Governments regulate emission levels from outdoor devices such as vehicles, power stations and factories, so why not for printers?" she said.

Her advice for the many who may not be in a position to wait for such an option:

"Until something is done, I suggest that people ensure rooms in offices and homes are well-ventilated to allow the airborne particles to disperse."