Computers and printers are common in the workplace, schools and homes. There so common in fact that we may not think about them as having a potential health risk. Like tobacco smoke, mold and bacteria, printer particles from toner are so microscopically small that they can be inhaled into your lungs and have a negative impact on your health and your indoor air quality.
What’s in printer ink?
Printer inks contain a wide range of ingredients including biocides, distilled surfactants, fungicides humectants and resins. Manufacturers also use nanoparticles to improve the quality of ink in toner formulas. In addition, the printing process which involves melting the toner on to the page to be printed also releases ultra-fine particles which contain volatile organic-chemical substances (VOCs)
There are numerous concerns with the ink ingredients as well as the possibly of inhaling nanoparticles into your lungs when a document is being printed or while replacing a cartridge. These tiny particles are small enough that when inhaled, they enter into the lungs and have the potential to cause respiratory and cardiovascular damage.
What the studies say
This study suggests that laser PEPs nanoparticles are detrimental to lung cells, they causes significant membrane integrity damage and an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine release.
This study showed an increase in the concentration of ozone and ultrafine particle numbers during the printing process. The VOCs and ozone emissions of printers were measured by in a test chamber. The chamber concentrations showed an increase of styrene, xylenes and ozone during the printing process of the laser printer, and pentanol was detected from the ink-jet printer. These results suggest that an office or residential printer may be a source of indoor air contamination
According to the study performed by The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We have shown that PEPs (printer emitted particles) caused significant cytotoxicity, membrane integrity damage, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, pro-inflammatory cytokine release, angiogenesis, actin remodeling, gap cell junctions and epigenetic changes in cells at doses comparable to those from real world exposure scenarios representative of inhalation exposures in the range of 1-200 hours. We may conclude that laser printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles can be deleterious to lung cells and may cause persistent genetic modifications that could translate to pulmonary disorders”.
Symptoms of exposure to VOCs
Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include:
Allergic skin reaction
Declines in serum cholinesterase levels
Nose and throat discomfort
What can you do?
Try not have your work desk next to a printer.
Consider having an air cleaner in your office.
Minimize your exposure at home, print only what is necessary.
Keep your printer away from sleeping and living areas.
Make sure that whatever room your printer is in, is well ventilated.
This is the air cleaner that I own and use in my home.