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HP Printer Hardware

HP to Researchers, 'Our Printers Are Safe' 89

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the still-legal-in-three-states dept.
Sidepocket_Pro sent us a link to this HP press release which reads, "Based on our own testing, HP knows that many variables can affect the outcome of tests for ultrafine particle emissions. Although HP is not aware of all of the specific methodologies used in the Queensland study, based on what we've seen in the report — as well as our own work in this area — we do not believe there is a link between printer emissions and any public health risk. Specifically, HP does not see an association between printer use by customers and negative health effects for volatile organic compounds, ozone or dust. While we recognize ultrafine, fine, and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognized occupational exposure limits."
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HP to Researchers, 'Our Printers Are Safe'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:18AM (#20112619)
    Just like I *cough* believe the cigarette *cough* companies.
    • Perhaps the wifi makes you cough by telling your brain

      Tinfoil hat time (joke)

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What? You don't believe these labels that the tobacco companies willingly print on their cigarette packages?
      http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/legislati on/label-etiquette/graph/index_e.html [hc-sc.gc.ca]

      Health Canada used to advertise that arsenic was one of the toxins present in tobacco until I told them why it was present. (The FDA allows tobacco to be grown on lands banned for food agricultural use because of contamination from old arsenic based pesticides.) They pulled those ads pretty quick. They still advert
  • Nail Salon (Score:5, Funny)

    by redelm (54142) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:26AM (#20112663) Homepage
    ... whew, that's a relief. I won't need to tell my sister to watch out for the printer at her nail polishing salon :)
  • Sheeple (Score:2, Informative)

    by torkus (1133985)
    So some research group writes a bunch of pages of nonsense and starts off the latest annoying "OMG YOUR OFFICE JOB MAY KILL YOU, News at 11" theme.

    Really, sheeple will listen to anything and take it as fact. I'm an IT manager at work and someone actually came to us yesterday with 'How do we get this printer replaced, it's a huge polluter, see attached study'. Luckily it was in email so he didn't hear me laughing.

    I mean, if you actually look at things there's stuff that doesn't make sense. At least one of
    • It isn't like we have 200+ years of laser printer usage in a cubicle environment to look back on. This is something very new in history. Why COULDN'T it be harmful? They thought asbestos was safe... lead paint... Radon... .
    • by Valdrax (32670)

      You know, I always thought sheeple was meant more for people who just went along with the flock and didn't make any protests about where they were being led. You know, kind of like people who blindly trust companies when companies put out statements saying that their products never hurt *anybody* and that you should trust them and keep buying from them.

      At least one of HP's printers is listed in two different coulumns. It's 'above average but *may* be high'. So they list it in high as well. No further e

  • I Agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JamesRose (1062530) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:31AM (#20112691)
    One printer isn't going to cause harm, even if you are exposed for long times. However, the office I recently worked in, had about 7 printers for various purposes, and this was an office that used a particularly amount of paper, maybe they should carry out tests in more real conditions- it may not be an issue if you are ina sterile room with a printer, but lets face it, thats not gonna happen.
    • Re:I Agree (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:38AM (#20112731)

      maybe they should carry out tests in more real conditions- it may not be an issue if you are ina sterile room with a printer, but lets face it, thats not gonna happen.
      That'd be a problem for your employer rather than HP. Course, figures for emissions would be helpful for employers to decide where to site printers or how many might cause a problem.

    • by dbsub9 (1110933)
      I agree with you I just wanted to mention something weird that's happened to me during the 8+ years I've been involved in IT. If I'm around a laser printer as it's printing (especially when the page comes out and you get that hot feeling coming out of the printer) I get very lightheaded. It's not like I'm going to pass out face down but I feel very unsteady. Everyone at work thinks I'm a freak. I don't agree with the study but there is something weird with laser printers for me anyway (I've never heard
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      FFS, any draftsman that is old enough to know what Borco and T-squares are has inhaled ammonia at least a few dozen times. That was a job for the juniors and I well remember how unpleasant it was ~25 years ago. These days people are hyper-sensitive about ANY environmental concern, no matter how slight.

      People worry too much about minor things these days, I for one haven't experiev kdsgigijfsdfy as a resuly of my exposeyte to mh3 fumez..
  • by neapolitan (1100101) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:32AM (#20112699)
    All right, as one of Slashdot's numerous physician-readers, I'll chime in...

    As your intuition tells you, breathing stuff inside your lungs is, in general, quite bad. Your lung has numerous defense mechanisms that will swallow up inhaled gunk, known as macrophages, and to some degree destroy it. This system can be easily overwhelmed, and particles that are not able to be degraded by the macrophage essentially stay in the cell forever. This occurs after chronic and relatively large volume exposure, typically over many years, as common in coal miners.

    When you do your human dissections in medical school it is easy to tell the lungs of a smoker on gross examination, which have numerous black dots from macrophage-ingested carbon fragments. Even city-dwellers will have these particles. Breathing in coal particles gives something called Anthracosis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthracosis [wikipedia.org] which can cause numerous problems later on if severe. Breathing in asbestos particles and silica dust also gives similar problems, and can even increase risk of some cancers (mesothelioma) although this is, relatively speaking, quite overblown (smoking is orders of magnitude worse for you than transient asbestos exposure.)

    Reading through HP's statement (I'm new here), I feel it is actually well worded and reasonable. Walking past your laser printer is fine. We would all be suffering if it were a health risk. There is not a large amount of aerosol created by normal printer operation under normal conditions, and nanoparticles fine enough to be lobbed long distances (across the entire office) are typically breathed in and out and not lodged in the lungs.

    In summary, avoid breathing in any huge ball of black powder. Don't take out the printer cartridge, shake, and sniff, three times per day. Stop smoking. Finally, always take sensationalist research with a grain of salt (not several grains of toner.)
    • So doctor, what's your take on closing the lid before flushing? I've heard that leaving it open when flushing can spray tons of fecal matter around. I prefer to close it when I'm done anyways, but it's always good to be informed.
      • by NMerriam (15122)
        Mythbusters did a good experiment with this, and of course it's true that water from the toilet does spray, as you'd expect. But fecal matter is pretty much everywhere whether you close the lid or not. Your immune system can handle it, else you would be dead already.
    • Thanks, Doc! A well-worded comment from someone who can probably spell "ridiculous" and "definitely!"
    • One thing to consider is: are these expelled printer particles carcinogenic. Cigarette smoke and asbestos are, and much of their affect on the human body are related to that. Is printer in carcinogenic?

      Another thing to consider is quantity. People who get breathing problems from cigarette smoke, asbestos, coal, silica, and other substances like them tend to have very high exposure rates. They smoke 2 packs a day for 30 years. They manipulate asbestos/silica containing products in the workplace 8 hours a day
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525)
      OT, I know, but does that mean that someone who's living in a city could start to suffer respiratory problems (like asthma) despite no previous symptoms as a direct result of all the crap they're breathing in?
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      For perspective -- how does normal-use printer dust compare with everyday household dust? how about farm dust, such as one might breathe during a long day plowing the fields or baling hay?

      (My own method of determining dust levels: how much crap did I blow out of my nose at the end of the day? :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:36AM (#20112721)
    the day we have to march outside where the smokers hang out to retrieve our printouts, only to find that the damn machine has jammed again.
  • by jjeffries (17675) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @08:49AM (#20112791)
    I was doing some "all-purpose geek" work-study for my school's IT dept some years ago. One day another work-study student gets mind to clean out one of our shop's big laser printers... with an air compressor.

    POOF! went the jet of air, and a black toner cloud started to flow from the printer... and it kept coming and coming... the boss said, "everyone get out NOW" and closed the door behind us.

    We weren't allowed in there again until men in fancy white suits swabbed down the entire room and the hundreds of PCs and parts within. Good times!
  • I read the HP press release, but does anyone know what testing protocols they used? If there is a difference with the toner formulations, would using a thrid-party toner put you at greater risk or remove HP's liability?
  • Great! (Score:3, Funny)

    by mickq (201389) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:26AM (#20113033) Homepage
    Now I have to wear a tinfoil hat AND a gas mask at work.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:35AM (#20113077) Homepage
    What would you expect HP to say? "We believe there is a link between printer emissions and a public health risk?" I give HP enough credit to think that if they believed there was such a link, they would have done something about it... so by definition, since they haven't done anything about it they don't believe there's a problem.

    And in further news, the CEO of Altria issued this statement: "Based on our own testing, Altria knows that many variables can affect the outcome of tests for cigarette smoke particulates. Although Altria is not aware of all of the specific methodologies used in the study, based on what we've seen in the report -- as well as our own work in this area -- we do not believe there is a link between our cigarettes and lung cancer."
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @11:30AM (#20113845) Journal
      Here's my breakdown of their press release.

      Testing of ultrafine particles is a *very new scientific discipline. There are no indications that ultrafine particle (UFP) 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.
      There isn't a significant body of research and you can't prove that the particles are causing problems.

      However, many experts believe that many of the UFPs found in common household and office products are not discrete solid particles, but **may be condensation products or small droplets created during thermal processes.
      The experts we're quoting don't really have proof to back up their claims either.

      HP LaserJet printing systems, original HP print cartridges and papers are tested for dust release and possible material emissions and are compliant with all applicable international health and safety requirements. In addition to meeting or exceeding these guidelines, HP's design criteria for its laser printing systems incorporate guidelines from both the Blue Angel program in Germany and the Greenguard program in the United States.
      We're claiming our product is safe because it meets international guidelines, which *may or may not be based on any relevant scientific data.

      *we do not believe there is a link between printer emissions and any public health risk. Specifically, HP *does not see an association between printer use by customers and negative health effects for volatile organic compounds, ozone or dust.
      There's no data to prove a link and none of our studies have shown that there is (probably because we haven't been looking for one).

      **While we recognize ultrafine, fine, and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognized occupational exposure limits.
      We admit that our products put out UFPs, but since they are at levels below the guidelines, we can pretend that it's safe, since there is nothing to contradict us.

      * These points are all related. Sometimes health guidelines are arbitrarily chosen. Other times, they're based on safety data from some semi-related guideline. HP tries to poke holes in the Queensland research by claiming that the field is new, yet attempts to fall back on 'the guidelines' in order to divest itself of any responsibility. There are no long term health studies, so HP is using the absence of evidence as evidence of absence.

      ** I'm not sure if they contradict themselves here or not, but they again try to fall back upon the guidelines as an authority.
  • I can't believe some people. I'd rank printer toner in the same danger zone as chalk dust and pencil graphite.
  • by E++99 (880734) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:42AM (#20113143) Homepage
    ....but in the event that it goes crazy, there's now a kill switch.
  • by DrDitto (962751) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @09:47AM (#20113171)
    A family member has run a toner remanufacturing business for nearly 20 years now. They have a filtration system in the room where cartridges are stripped down to pieces, rebuilt, and then refilled. But the room is still filthy even with fancy filtration. In the next room over, they have about 20 laser printers for testing, but no special filtration.

    In the 20 years of doing this, not one of their employees has had any lung problems.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In the 20 years of doing this, not one of their employees has had any lung problems.

      Black lung disease (coal miners) and white lung disease (ship yard workers, from asbestos particles) don't become problems until decades after exposure. It is possible that someone who worked a few months in a toner cartridge refilling operation 20 years ago will start to have problems in the next 5 to 30 years. It is a hard thing to tell a lung crippled 70 year old that he would still be able to ski and climb mountains if only he hadn't taken that summer job in the shipyards when he was teen.

      I am not c

    • by jimicus (737525)
      In the 20 years of doing this, not one of their employees has had any lung problems.

      Or if they have, they've died so quickly that nobody had a chance to think "hang on, they've spent years working in a plant full of printer toner..."
  • by Pigeon451 (958201) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:23AM (#20113413)
    Toner particles are made of a plastic-like material that is non-toxic and are generally 10-25 um in diameter. They put additives such as SiO2 onto the surface, these are nano-scale sized particles which are generally well attached to the toner.

    Claims this dust is as bad as cigarette smoking is a ridiculous statement, as toner particles are non toxic (tests have been done). Buildup in the lungs is a major issue however, as ultra-fine particles are not expelled from the lungs once inside -- this is a worry.

    I work for a large toner company, and we do tests on machines in enclosed areas with experimental toners. Areas we work in are monitored for dust particles, and we are well below safe limits. If our areas are safe, then an office environment certainly should be.

    Note the vast majority of problem machines are by HP -- particle emissions is not a problem in the industry, it just seems to be a problem with HP printers. HP is a manufacturer of "affordable" printers, perhaps they are not as well put together as more expensive machines. The media took a small issue and blew it out of proportion, much as it does with everything.

    • by Mr.Fork (633378)
      Pigeon, you state (and I quote) "I work for a large toner company, and we do tests on machines in enclosed areas with experimental toners. Areas we work in are monitored for dust particles, and we are well below safe limits. If our areas are safe, then an office environment certainly should be."

      That is an accurate statement, but a few questions. Who's safe limits are you referring to? The ones set by your office's WH&SC policy committee? Federal limits? Own offices policy? Do you vent to the outside? A
      • by Pigeon451 (958201)
        Heh, great questions. My response is a bit late ... Safe limits of dust particles are set by our government, and are measured by external unbiased companies. At a certain size and below, particles are not expelled from the lungs once ingested (I forget the size). We test for both these small particles, and larger ones. We also test our environment regularly for mould, which is something I am more concerned about, as you are.

        You are correct in stating that older machines that need maintenance, and are used

  • And here's me thinking their study was going to show the printers weren't safe.
  • I sort of agree with HP actually. The whole point of a scientific paper is that you publish your methodology, so others can verify your results or point out possible errors. This is a pretty big claim to make, and I think HP has legitimate gripe. However I think they might just be buying themselves time. I think we learned from cigarettes that small particles going into the lungs is never a good idea, the only question is: Does a normal office setup have enough printers to present a health risk?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cyberwench (10225)
      I'd lean towards buying time. They don't have a lot of info to go on here, so they're trying to sound cautious but reassuring until they can get a better grip on it.

      Honestly, given how little actual toner escapes in the printers, I'd personally be more concerned about paper dust in a high-volume printing area.
  • Selenium Emissions (Score:5, Informative)

    by dprice (74762) <daprice@po[ ].com ['box' in gap]> on Saturday August 04, 2007 @10:37AM (#20113509) Homepage
    A long time ago, I was reading a nutrition book, and it mentioned that a person could get a one's daily requirement for selenium from breathing the air near a photocopier or laser printer. One man's poison is another man's micronutrient.
    • A long time ago, doctors thought leeches would cure all sorts of diseases. Further research should also be examined; people are wrong often (if not more) than not.
  • If you think I'm going to risk my life just to make money by shuffling papers around, you're crazy! I will not risk the dangers of 'tonerlung' and 'tonerloc', I'll take my chances with blacklung, thank you very much.
  • printers are safe from testing, due to the fact that their replaceable material probably is so expensive that the researchers couldnt afford it to test. Either that or they have been sued upfront into the ground by infringing on a patent for testing a device which is able to put something on paper. The printers probably were cheap though ;-)
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday August 04, 2007 @12:13PM (#20114137) Homepage
    OK, HP admits they don't know any more about this than any other supposed experts.


    The sad (but true) facts are:

    • If you work near a laser printer, you are going to die.
    • Work in a big city (lots of particulate pollution), you are going to die.
    • Work in a coal mine? You are going to die.
    • Work? You are going to die.
    • Face it, you are going to die. There is no escape.

    Sad, yes. But inescapably true.

  • Not really worried about this anyway. I own an HP printer, but only print something once in a blue moon (because of the rediculous price of cartridges). Would be happy if HP would make Vista drivers for my old reliable HP ScanJet 4100C scanner though...
  • I read this and saw "Our Pointers Are Safe"
    I think I need to get out today, read a book or something...
  • It's a bit like when they have a radiation leak and they say it was all within "safe limits". What they mean is, you'll never be able to prove in court your cancer was caused by their screw-up.
  • by your friends in the Inkjet Industry.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      ah, I couldn't read that part because the letters were wiped all blurry there because someone moved his finger of that part of the text. (Disclaimer: as someone who prints very infrequently, I recently bought an inkjet, and on the same day found out why I had decided years ago that my next printer would be a laser printer. The clearly distinguishable unhealthy smell of these things and the price tag for a color all-in-one held me from it, though.)
  • Of course HP - who had the most printers emitting the most crap in the study - can be expected to get defensive and spread FUD.

    But you can be sure that if the report listed HP printers as low emitters, HP would have put out a press release praising the study and it probably would have also put a sticker on each new printer saying 'Low particle emissions'.

    Oh, and BTW: people should read the original researchers paper in full, and not just accept the HP PR 'contoversy hose-down' attempt at face value. The o

    • by Swordlol (1138125)
      If the government harnassed the awesome potential printers have to spread mass death. We're all be doomed.
  • HP's LaserJet printers encode the printer serial number and registration information (at a minimum) in a pattern of little yellow dots so that every sheet of paper can be tracked back to the printer that printed it. They aren't unique in this, however. Many other printer companies do the exact same thing.

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,118664-page,1/ar ticle.html [pcworld.com]
  • We used to have an HP printer burn out and start smoking at least twice a month out on the production floor where I worked. Fire hazards are worse than pollution, IMHO. So no, HP printers are not safe from what I've seen.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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