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What All The Fuzz About Toner Dust?

In 2006, a laboratory report discussing the emission of toner dust from the laser printer was circulated. Said publication started the debate on health and related safety issues confounding office personnel exposed to toner particles. In response, a number of offices enclosed and isolated the laser printer while designating only select personnel to operate the machine in order to avoid toner dust from contaminating the workplace. Although the report was yet to be verified by another round of tests, it already created a sense of uncertainly for millions of laser printer users.

What started out as a scare was finally revealed as farce and unsubstantiated today. Recent studies conducted by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) in collaboration with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia revealed that what was often detected as ultra fine particles emitted by the laser printer is not toner dust but volatile organic compounds. Adding more teeth to these findings is a simple experiment wherein a laser printer was made to run continuously without toner and paper. The experiment resulted in the discharge of similar, organic compounds which therefore concludes that toner and paper do not contribute to the release of volatile compounds – instead, the compounds originate from the printer unit itself.

The study further indicated that in the course of printing, the laser printer generates high temperatures which affect the various substances used by the different printer components. Extreme heat causes the evaporation of volatile substances integrated into printer components such as paraffin and silicone oil which combine to form nano-particles. The formation of ultra-fine, volatile compounds can also be produced from heating, particularly when performing domestic chores like cooking, baking and using the bread toaster. Findings from the WKI and QUT study finally laid to rest questions about the laser printer and its potential of becoming a health hazard.

The toner scare was actually what pushed various printer manufacturers to develop new generation laser printers that operate at lower temperatures (so as not to trigger the emission of volatile compounds) and produce less noise while rated as energy efficient. Concurrent with this development are advances on toner powder production. Toner particles now fuse at low temperatures to reduce waste produced in the printing process. Third party toner manufacturers likewise are not far behind as they have also produced compatible toner used in toner refill kits as a feasible alternative to the OEM toner. The toner consumable market is now a healthy mix of OEM, compatible and remanufactured toner cartridges and toner refill kits such as the Lexmark C710 that is suited to duplicate the performance of its OEM toner counterpart.

So, what is the fuzz about toner dust and laser printers is all in the past and never to haunt.

Photo credit: Blyzz / / CC BY-ND

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