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Particle emissions from laser printers might pose health concern

Certain laser printers used in offices and homes release tiny particles of toner-like material into the air that people can inhale deep into lungs where they may pose a health hazard, scientists are reporting. Their study is scheduled for the August 1 online issue of the American Chemical Societys Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), a semi-monthly journal.

Lidia Morawska, Ph.D., and colleagues in Australia classified 17 out of 62 printers in the study as high particle emitters because they released such elevated quantities of particles, which the researchers believe to be toner, the ultrafine powder used in laser printers instead of ink to form text and images. One of the printers released particles into an experimental chamber at a rate comparable to the particle emissions from cigarette smoking, the report stated.

Thirty-seven of the 62 printers, on the other hand, released no particles that diminished air quality. Six released only low levels, and 2 medium levels. All printers were monitored in an open office, and the researchers recorded data on three laser printers in an experimental chamber. The study included popular models in the U. S. and Australia sold internationally under the Canon, HP Color Laserjet, Ricoh and Toshiba brand names.

Most of the printer-generated particles detected were ultrafine, Morawska said, explaining that such contaminants are easily inhaled into the smallest passageways of the lungs where they could pose a significant health threat. Previous studies have focused on emissions of volatile organic compounds, ozone, and toner particles from office printers and copiers. However, the research left broad gaps in scientific understanding of particle emissions and airborne concentrations of particles, the report noted.

Morawska and colleagues, who are with the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, initially were not trying to close that knowledge gap. It wasnt an area that we
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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
202-872-4400
American Chemical Society
31-Jul-2007


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