HP, Researcher Trade Barbs On Laser Printer Safety - InformationWeek

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HP, Researcher Trade Barbs On Laser Printer Safety

The study found inhalation of ultra-fine particles can affect human health depending on the material inhaled and the quantity.

The lead researcher in a study that found ultra-fine particles from some laser printers could pose a serious health risk to office workers has objected to Hewlett-Packard's claims that the study was based on very new science that has yet to show a danger from printer emissions.

The report, conducted by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, classified 17 out of 62 printers as "high particle emitters" because of the amount of toner released in the air. One printer released ultra-fine toner particles at a rate similar to cigarette smoke, said the study, which was published last week online in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology.

The list of high emitters included one Toshiba model, with the rest made by HP. The inhalation of ultra-fine particles can affect human health depending on the material inhaled and the quantity. Such particles can cause respiratory irritation, and in more severe conditions, cardiovascular problems or cancer.

In its response to the findings, HP said that based on its own work as well as what it saw in the report, the company did not believe there was a link between printer emissions and any public health risk. "Testing of ultra-fine particles is a very new scientific discipline," the company said in a statement. "There are no indications that ultra-fine particle emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks.

"Currently, the nature and chemical composition of such particles -- whether from a laser printer or from a toaster -- cannot be accurately characterized by analytical technology," HP said.

But Professor Lidia Morawska, who led the study, told The Sydney Morning Herald that the study of ultra-fine particles was not based on a new science, pointing to such particulate research in vehicle emissions. "The fact that this process has already occurred in relation to vehicles emission is an indication that testing of ultra-fine particles is not 'a very new scientific discipline.'"

In backing up her health risk claims, Morawska pointed to the World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines, which said "there is considerable toxicological evidence of potential detrimental effects of ultra-fine particles on human health," according to the Morning Herald. Morawska also rejected HP's argument that the nature and chemical composition of particles from a laser printer cannot be accurately characterized.

One area in which HP and Morawska agreed was that more research on printer emissions was needed. One area in which more study was needed was in the various factors that affected the level of emissions, such as printer model, printer age, cartridge model and cartridge age.

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