Is Your Laser Printer Giving You Cancer?

  • Comments: 6
  • 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.

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