Researchers have discovered that some laser printers release tiny particles of toner into the air that people breathe deep into their lungs, causing a potential health hazard.
They found that 17 of the 62 printers - all well-known brands including Canon, HP Color Laserjet, Ricoh and Toshiba - were "high particle emitters". One of the copiers tested had emissions of toner that were as bad as cigarette smoke.
The particles are ultra fine and are easily inhaled into the smallest passageways of the lungs where they could pose "a significant health threat", the researchers from Queensland University of Technology said.
They found that indoor particle levels during office hours when the photocopiers were being used increased five-fold compared with the hours when the offices were closed.
The illnesses from the particles depend on the particle composition, but they can range from respiratory irritation to more severe conditions such as cardiovascular problems or even cancer.
(Source: Environmental Science & Technology, 2007; web release: 10.1021/es063049z S0013-936X(06)03049-5).