Is Your Laser Printer Giving You Cancer?

  • Comments: 7
  • Written on: August 11th, 2007

HP 4250 PrinterOk, hold on to your hats for this one folks. An Australian study found that laser printers eject toner particles into the air when they are printing.

No big news there right? Everyone knows that “sweet smell of productivity” that fills the air on a big printing job. But what you don’t know is that there is a possibility those toner particles are carcinogenic.

The study noted that almost all toner cartridges contain Carbon Black, a known class B2 carcinogen. Conventional wisdom says that as long as the toner gets fused to your paper and your boss does not make you eat your documents with lunch, you are probably safe. The question the study asked was does the Carbon Black nastiness get ejected into the air that comes out of the laser printer.

Airborne Death?

As you might imagine, HP is taking this whole thing pretty seriously. It was reported on a few different ZDNet blog posts that HP disputed the findings of the Australian study, sighting inaccurate particle measurement.

In fact, HP said that more testing would be needed to determine if toner particles are ejected when printing and if so, how much, if any, Carbon Black is in the toner particles and at what concentration.

It is also of note to mention that nearly all toner contains Carbon Black, regardless of the brand of the printer. HP gets the brunt of this blow because they are the market leader.

Of the HP printers tested, models 1320 and 4250 were found to have higher levels of emissions than the model 4050, which had nearly no emissions at all.

Am I Going to Die?

So the bottom line here is that if you have an ink jet printer you have nothing to worry about. If you use a laser printer in home or at work you may be exposing yourself to a known cancer-causing agent.

I am not going to stop using my laser printer, and I suspect most people won’t go back to pen and paper anytime soon. Like all medical studies, there will be another and another and another and they will all contradict each other.

We may find out the truth in a decade or so, but until then you might want to change the furnace filter in the copy room a little more often – just in case.

  1. Printer Drivers said on December 2nd, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    It’s not surprising really though is it, I think all fine particles suspended in air pose a cancer risk if repeatedly inhaled.

  2. Messi said on April 18th, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    scary.. but well said that it will at least be a decade till we get anything conclusive

  3. Keith said on October 6th, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Yup, toner contains carbon black, lots of it. Carbon black is carcinogenic. Clearly, laser printer fusers are not perfect. Just look inside any laser printer that has been in operation for a few weeks. Thus, some microscopic toner gets into the air during printing, during opening the toner package, during pulling the tape, during cleaning the printer, during taking the toner cartridge out and shaking it to get the most copies for your badly shrunken dollar. I think the only question here is whether you will die of something besides cancer before the cancer induced by the toner gets bad enough to kill you first.

    I have been told by those who actually know the truth (inside and outside HP) to keep toner out of your lungs, off your clothing and off your body. The truth is that it is naughty stuff and if you get exposed to enough of it, it will do naughty stuff to your body.

    Don’t you just love the smell of new tennis balls when you first open the can !!!

  4. Genite said on April 27th, 2010 at 4:26 am

    This is very scarry and no one including me, don’t know about this kind of things happen when we are using printer machine, So my thought is to prevent this cut the paper printing work like billing etc. by e-mail.
    What guys say?

  5. Melissa @ cancer hats said on February 18th, 2011 at 5:58 am

    This is extremely scary and nerve-racking for me. I constantly use the photocopying machine to reproduce things in my work!!!! Oh no! I think I want to give my job up if it’s going to cost me my health.

  6. emilia bertolini said on October 13th, 2011 at 10:44 am

    I sat in front of this printer for years and have tongue cancer

  7. Tech Messages | 2007-08-11 - 2007-08-12 | Slaptijack said on August 12th, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    […] Is Your Laser Printer Giving You Cancer? | Thor Schrock’s Technology Blog – The thought that laser printers are ejecting carcinogens while printing is pretty disturbing. […]

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