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Potentially poisonous printers petrify Trade union


1st August, 2007

Trade union UNISON today called for further research into the health risks of office laser printers.

The union, which represents 1.3 million UK public sector workers, was responding to research by scientists at the Queensland University of Technology who found that certain models of office laser printer emit levels of tiny particles comparable to those released by cigarette smoking. These ultra-fine particles have the potential to penetrate the lungs causing respiratory irritation or more serious illnesses such as cancer.

Speaking about the risks posed to office workers facing long-term exposure to laser printers, a UNISON spokesperson said: “This research has produced some alarming results that merit further research and a closer look by governments.”

Laser printers are not the first piece of office equipment to be accused of making office workers ill. At least one study has shown that the ozone released by photocopiers can react with volatile organic compounds present in perfumes and office carpets to cause some of the symptoms of ‘sick building syndrome’. These symptoms include eye irritation and breathing difficulties.

If there is a previously unknown link between laser printer emissions and respiratory illness, there could be legal consequences for some laser printer manufacturers. Mark Wheeler at the Health and Safety Executive, the body responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations in the UK, said that: “it would be a major oversight by forefront brands of business machines.”

You can read the Ecologist’s recent article on making your office a greener, healthier place to work here

This article first appeared in the Ecologist August 2007


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