Thursday, February 12, 2009

Australian toner fears are back

A printer industry story originating in Australia in 2007 (See "Second Hand Toner") has re-surfaced with more to back it up this time. It's an article entitled "An Investigation into the Characteristics and Formation Mechanisms of Particles Originating from the Operation of Laser Printers" in the current (43:4) Environmental Science and Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The lead author is the same scientist who raised the issue previously. She is Linda Morawska, of Queensland University of Technology, and this time she has the support of 11 co-authors.

So far the general and business press is slow to pick up on the story, with just a few mentions as of mid-afternoon US Time. ABC Australia's excellent "Laser printer debate heats up" recaps the history of the story and has a current comment from HP (NYSE HPQ) press agency Burson-Marsteller, pointing out HP's interest in research the danger of ultra-fine particles (UFPs) in the office but also expressing skepticism towards a direct correlation between toner and paper and UFPs.

I have not gained access to the entire article as of yet, but here's an introductory quote from the abstract:

While current research has demonstrated that the operation of some laser printers results in emission of high concentrations of ultrafine particles, fundamental gaps in knowledge in relation to the emissions still remain. In particular, there have been no answers provided to questions such as the following: (1) What is the composition of the particles? (2) What are their formation mechanisms? (3) Why are some printers high emitters, while others are low? Considering the widespread use of printers and human exposure to these particles, understanding the process of particle formation is of critical importance. This study, using state-of-the-art instrumental methods, has addressed these three points.


Greg Walters said...

Jim - this is a great issue -

If I remember correctly, the actual laser particulate emissions were at the same level as can be found in any kitchen.

Of course, I found this interesting enough to mention in an article written a year ago, almost to the day....

good scoop...

Jim Lyons said...

A few places to read more.

Christoper Null's Blog:

And linking from there, ARS Technica: