Every office has one. The laser printer is common to every office like the water cooler. Everyday we print off reports, our email, letters to potential customers, charts and many other things. But have you ever changed the toner cartridge in your printer or copier? It often is no problem and doesn’t seem dirty at all, but then there is the nightmare problem leaving you covered by the end of the job with a black coating of dust.
While changing copier or printer toner, your first priority is often getting the machine back running as quickly as conceivable to finish the project at hand. But it’s best to slow down and take the time to follow necessary safety precautions and check the machine for other visual potential problems.
Printer Toner is a fine powder
While copier and printer toner itself isn’t a health hazard, its fine powder (less than 3 microns) in high denseness can be. This powder can stay in the air for quite awhile, and is similar to dust when it comes to its effects on our body, resulting in allergic irritations like sneezing and coughing. Add any respiratory conditions like bronchitis or asthma and these effects can become consuming.
How does this dust become airborne? You’d be surprised at how fairly easy it is. An ill advised way to find out is to take the cartridge out of the machine, get a can of air and give it a blast. Often the failure of a toner cartridge is not that it is empty, it is the fact that the wasted toner is full. Improper disposal of printer toner in waste baskets can quickly spread dust through the air. Machine spills can cycle through the ventilator fan and make the toner dust airborne in seconds. Over-filled waste toner compartments can overrun within the machine.
Some laser toner cartridges are considered carcinogens, or cancer causing, increasing the risk of those individuals facing extremely heavy and long-term exposure. Nevertheless, typical office and personal use is deemed safe.
So take precautions. Vacuum, and use a vacuum that is equipped with a fine powder dust collection bag like the shop vac with a drywall dust bag, don’t sweep or brush, spilled toner dust. Clean up desktops or surfaces with a damp cloth. Should toner get on your hands, wash them well and instantly with soap and warn water, then with cold water which keeps your pores closed and protects your hands from becoming stained. Avoid rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth and never ingest. To play it extra safe, put the toner in a zipped plastic bag or tie off a common kitchen bag to avoid possible dust emissions.
If your eyes start watering, sneezing occurs or shortness of breath, stop working with the printer toner, if applicable, and get fresh air immediately. Then seek medical attention if your symptoms persist.