Printer toner is a powder used in heavy-duty printers instead of ink. It is a mix of carbon and polymer, and it is preferred in office settings because it lasts longer than traditional liquid ink. However, there has been some evidence to suggest there are health risks associated with prolonged exposure to printer toner.
The Queensland (Australia) Department of Public Works released a study in 2007 that suggested that toner used in certain laser printers emitted tiny particles that have been associated with respiratory diseases in other studies. In the most extreme cases, the toner particles were dense enough and had a chemical composition that suggested they would have the same effect on people as cigarette smoke. Another study, from the University of Rostock in Germany, suggested that these particles are carcinogenic and, like asbestos, can cause cancer after prolonged exposure.
Both the Queensland study and the Rostock study noted that the severity of health reactions to printer toner would vary depending on the length of exposure. Those who have been exposed to toner for a long time, they noted, seemed to have a higher chance of contracting respiratory illnesses, but as of 2009, no official study had been conducted to produce a scientific result.
Age of Printer
Another factor in discerning the risks of prolonged exposure to printer toner is the age of the printer. Printers manufactured in the 1970s and before used a type of toner that was pure carbon, which would be more dangerous than the toner from modern printers.
Comparisons to Dust
Although a case can be made for the carcinogenic properties of toner, those who work in very dusty areas have experienced comparable effects. This would suggest that problems with toner would be particle-based, rather than chemically based.
Although a link between toner and respiratory problems has yet to be conclusively made, studies have shown that there may be cause for concern. To be on the safe side, it is a good idea to wear a filtered mask when handling toner, and to keep doors or windows open to ensure adequate ventilation when changing or handling toner.
- Photo Credit "Paper Direction Icons-4" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: krossbow (F Delventhal) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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