The Quiet Killer in Your Office

Dennis Faas's picture

Here's a new and yet very odd tech threat: the particles emitted by your office printer.

According to an Australian research team associated with the Queensland University of Technology, these tiny airborne particles, which waft outwards from laser printers, can cause health problems including:

  • respiratory issues
  • cardiovascular irritation
  • various types of cancer

Unfortunately, researchers remain uncertain exactly what chemicals within the particles directly affect the human body. However, they have some vital tips for ensuring the long-term health of workers who consistently use laser printers, the most important being efficient office ventilation. (Source:

Although the names of the most problematic printers have not been released at this time, Australia's research team identified 17 of a possible 62 as "high particle emitters." Results will be published online in the coming weeks in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Most troubling may be word from the team of one particular printer whose emissions were comparable to that of a lit cigarette. (Source:

In addition to the printer models themselves, there are certain situations in which a printer is most likely to emit particles into the air. For instance, a laser printer using a new cartridge is more likely to pose a problem, as is one that uses greater amounts of toner (through the printing of images or elaborate graphics).

Surprise, surprise

The Aussie team actually discovered these startling results by accident. While examining the threats certain outdoor environments pose for office workers, researchers found that the indoor problems tend to have a greater impact on employee health. It just so happens that laser printers topped a list of significant threats.

As part of a solution campaign, the researchers are calling on all governments to regulate the emissions of laser printers, an initiative that could have a drastic impact on both office environments and the technological industry.

Regardless, this should keep the previously bored office health and safety representative busy for quite some time.

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