Office worker using laser printer.

Laser Printers Can Cause Genetic Changes, Study Finds

  April 1, 2020

By Naomi Millán

Laser printer toner particulate has been linked to persistent genetic changes which are passed down into offspring, according to a recent study. The genetic changes have a cascade of negative health effects, and begin to occur from onset of exposure, according to WVUToday.

In the study at West Virginia University, researchers placed rats in a sealed chamber with a laser printer which ran nonstop for five hours a day for 21 days. That works out to an equivalent human exposure of five hours a day for four to eight years. Every four days, researchers sampled the rat's lung and blood cells and studied every gene in the rat's genome. Overall, there were observable genomic changes which are linked to cardiovascular, neurological, and metabolic disorders.

After the rat study, researchers studied the genetic changes in printing company workers in Singapore, most of them under the age of 30, and found many of the same genomic changes as in the rats. Of particular concern for exposure are pregnant women, as the genetic changes get passed down through generations, say the researchers.

Researchers point to the need for special ventilation and exposure controls in rooms where laser printers are in heavy use. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality addresses high-volume printers, requiring copy/printing rooms to be exhausted at a rate of 0.5 CFM/SF (2013 version). WELL also addresses ventilation requirements to mitigate the negative effects of copiers.

While the WVU study focused on genetic impact, other studies have focused on the effects on the respiratory system, and the cognitive effects of laser printer emissions.

Naomi Millán is senior editor of Building Operating Management. 



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