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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingAccording to new research, certain laser printers may be hazardous to your health. Australian researchers discovered some printers emit an ultra-fine powder into the air.
The powder is made up of microscopic particles of toner-like material. The concern is that these particles are so tiny that people can inhale them deep into the lungs where they may pose a health hazard.
You'll find them in just about every office and home; laser printers humming away, churning out work.
However, new research says some printers emit ultra-fine particles that may pose a risk to your health
Previous studies show particles of this size emitted from cars increase the risk of heart disease and death. Thomas McKone, researcher at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, says, "One thing we know is that the finer the particles, they do go deeper in the lungs."
Researchers put 62 printers to the test and found some release ultra-fine toner-like particles. Of those analyzed, 37 had no particle emission at all. However, 17 chalked up high emissions.
The worst printer, according to the study, released as many particles as a lit cigarette. But McKone says we can't assume printer particles are as dangerous as those emitted by smoking or cars. He wonders, "Are they (particles) unhealthy because they're small or unhealthy because of their chemical composition?"
McKone is an expert in indoor air quality and environmental health. He urges caution, saying the study is far from perfect. He says, "They didn't look at the long-term cumulative exposure and that's for health effects; that's what really matters."
Most of the printers on the worst list are made by Hewlett Packard. The company says it's reviewing the research.
But in a statement, the company says, "As part of strict quality controls, HP assesses it laser jet printing systems for possible emissions to ensure compliance with applicable international health and safety requirements."
Dr. Mckone says don't throw out your printer, be smart about how you use it. He says, "In this study they measured levels right over the printer. Well, don't put your head right over a printer for hours at a time when it's operating."
Dr. Mckone says lots of things emit small particles indoors, including toasters, cooking, even burning candles.
Lots of small particles can cross our blood-lung barrier, but it doesn't mean they are all dangerous.