New debate on cancer risk posed by laser printers

Quite a stir was recently caused by a press statement from the university of Rostock which said that scientists from this university had proven the cancer risk posed by toner dust from laser printers. Now the German Association for Information Management, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM) in the name of manufacturers and traders of laser printers vehemently rejected the statement by the Rostock researchers.

Prof. Dr. Ludwig Jonas from the electronic microscope centre at the institute for pathology at the University of Rostock wrote the following in the press statement: “The research results undoubtedly showed that toner dust is another cause of lung cancer.” For a few years now it has been observed in service technicians of printer and copier manufacturers that these increasingly suffer from lung problems which in come cases led to a work incapability of some technicians. Some people developed an allergy against toner dust and lost their voices as soon as they entered rooms with printers or copying machines. Therefore, Professor Jonas in his statement warned: “The health problems caused by contact with toner dust have to be taken seriously. These may lead to invalidity and even death.”

BITKOM, however, hold a completely different opinion: if laser printers and copying machines are used in accordance with operating instructions, there will be no health risks due to toner or particle emissions. The same is said to apply to trained service personnel when servicing laser printers and copying machines.

According to EU directive 1999/45/EG laser toner does not have to be marked as toxic or causing cancer. Laser printer systems do not cause particle concentration in work places to rise above the levels stipulated by German and US legislation (AGW, US OSHA). Furthermore, laser printer systems do meet the requirements by the Federal agency for the environment.

Toner particles are said to be non-toxic. According to BITKOM and several researchers toner particles can not be compared to e.g. asbestos or cigarette smoke. BITKOM therefore considers the statement by the Rostock scientists an attempt to confuse consumers. GERMAN