Skip to main content

Some laser printers emit as much fine-particle pollution as cigarette smoke, which can lodge deep in people's lungs to pose a significant health threat, Australian researchers have found.

Some popular brand printers release so much toner into the air that the amount of fine particles in office air increases five-fold during work hours, and new toner cartridges and graphic-heavy printing projects further boost the amount of ultra-fine powder in the air.

In a study to be published on Wednesday, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology show that 17 of the 62 printers tested were "high particle emitters", sending an ultra fine powder that researchers - believed to be toner - into the air.

Story continues below advertisement

One of the printers tested released so many particles into the experimental chamber that it was akin to cigarette smoking, the report found.

Lead researcher Lidia Morawska said inhaling the particles could lead to respiratory irritation, and even more severe illnesses like cardiovascular problems and cancer.

Larger particles could also be unhealthy without reaching deep into the lungs, because they carry more toxins.

"No matter how you look at it, there could be problems," Dr. Morawska said.

Not all laser printers pose a health hazard, though. Thirty-seven of the 62 printers released no particles that diminished air quality, six released low levels, and two released medium levels.

The Canon, HP Color Laserjet, Ricoh and Toshiba printers - some of which are sold in Canada - were tested in an open office space in a multi-floor office building in Brisbane, Queensland. Three laser printers were tested in an experimental chamber.

The discovery was somewhat accidental, Dr. Morawska said.

Story continues below advertisement

"It wasn't an area that we consciously decided to study," she said. "We came across it by chance."

The research group had started studying the efficiency of ventilation systems in office settings, but soon found air pollution originating indoors from the laser printers.

The study, to be published in the online issue of the American Chemical Society's semi-monthly journal Environmental Science and Technology, found that indoor particle levels in office air increase five-fold during work hours thanks to printer use.

The scientists are now calling on Australian government officials to consider regulating emissions levels from laser printers.

HP LaserJet, Mita, Ricoh and Toshiba all had printers in the non-emission category.

Canon, HP and Ricoh had low-level emitters, while HP had the only two mid-level emitters.

Story continues below advertisement

The laser printers found to be high emitters, or potential high emitters depending on use, were:

HP Color LaserJet 4650dn

HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn

HP Color LaserJet 8550N

HP LaserJet 1320N

HP LaserJet 1320n

Story continues below advertisement

HP LaserJet 2420dn

HP LaserJet 4200dtn

HP LaserJet 4250n (old)

HP LaserJet 4250n (new)

HP LaserJet 5(a)

HP LaserJet 8000DN

Story continues below advertisement

HP LaserJet 8150N

Toshiba Studio 450

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter