Printing up problems
Special Report: Printing up problems
They're in almost every office and in many homes too.
Laser printers are popular and practical, but what you may not know, some worry they could pose a potential health hazard.
"There could be significant pollution going on within the office space and inside your work environment," Leslie Scharf, office supply specialist, said.
Some scientists have found, when laser printers are printing out pages they may also be spewing out tiny particles. And it's these particles you could end up breathing in.
"There have been days that I'll leave with a sore throat, then I go home and I'm fine," Molly, a Boston office worker, said. “So, I have no idea if it’s the printer."
They're called ultrafine or nanoparticles, so small, you can't see them.
Scientists aren't sure what they're made of, and right now there are no government standards for them.
Experts say that in a normal workspace nanoparticles-particles should average between 2,000 and 15,000 and pose no problem. But when levels rise, so does the threat.
7News teamed up with an air quality expert to check levels in the air before a laser printer goes to work and then during printing.
First step, a particle count for this office we got a level of 4,000.
Then we started printing.
"OK, this one’s operating," Gene Marckini, Boston Environmental, said.
Our first two printers fared well; the levels remained very close to what we started with.
But when we began sampling air from this color laser printer our levels skyrocketed.
"We're starting to see the baseline climb to 245... 372... 462...," Marckini said.
The particle count eventually reached 500,000.
"I was surprised it was as high as it was," Marckini said.
And we hit the 500,000 mark again, when we measured air coming from this black and white printer.
That's more than 30 times higher than particle amounts in a normal room. Our results had some worried.
"It's somewhat concerning," one Boston office worker said.
Angel Maldonado, who works in IT said, "After years of breathing this stuff in, you could have some problems, health wise. So yeah, definitely very concerned."
Most doctors agree more research needs to be done.
Environmental health experts say, in the short run, you shouldn't worry.
But over time, it could be a different story.
"If you ask the question of chronic toxicity and damage to our health in the long run, then the answer is, probably yes," Prof. Dhimiter Bello, an environmental scientist at Umass Lowell, said.
Hewlet Packard, a giant in the printer business, is dismissing any possible health threat, saying:
"There are no indications that ultra fine particle emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks."
Experts say to be on the safe side, put your printer in a well-ventilated space, away from desks. That way, you can avoid printing up a problem.
(Copyright (c) 2007 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)