Laser printers can emit high levels of unhealthy small particles, study says

Remember how computers were going to usher in the Paperless Office? We so should have done that. An Australian study has found that many laser printers emit high levels of small particles that can be harmful to human health, with the highest-emitting machines rivaling the small-particle pollution of cigarette smoke. “The health effects from inhaling ultra-fine particles … can range from respiratory irritation to more severe illness such as cardiovascular problems or cancer,” said Lidia Morawska of the Queensland University of Technology. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that particle emissions varied enormously depending on make, model, and age of the printer, as well as the type and age of the toner cartridge. Newer cartridges emit more particles, as does printing graphic-heavy files. Researchers still don’t know what the particles are made of or exactly how they’re produced, but they said governments should consider regulating emissions.