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The Little-Known Danger of Computer Printers ... and of Other Common Office Machines

If you're unlucky enough to be sitting next to certain computer printers in your office, you may as well be sitting next to a cigarette smoker, according to new research from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

office laser printer toxins

Laser printers in your office may be emitting toxic particulate matter that can cause heart disease, respiratory illness and cancer.

The researchers discovered that toxic particulate matter levels were five times higher inside a non-smoking office building on a workday than they were outside near a freeway. They then began to determine what was causing this toxic indoor air.

One of the sources turned out to be laser printers. The researchers studied more than 50 such printers and found that half of them emitted tiny particles of toner-like material into the air, in concentrations ranging from low to high.

Breathing in these tiny particles has been linked to respiratory illness, heart disease, lung disease and cancer.

The printers in the study were manufactured by common names including Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Ricoh and Canon -- and all used toner instead of ink.

"Even very small concentrations can be related to health hazards," said author Lidia Morawska, director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at Queensland University of Technology in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Where the concentrations are significantly elevated means there is potentially a considerable hazard."


Electro-pollution that comes from the electrical field surrounding office pollution can cause asthma, the flu and other respiratory illness.

Your risk of exposure, the researchers found, depends largely on the office building's ventilation system.

Are You Surrounded by Electronic Smog?

Laser printers are not the only potential risk in your work environment. The electrical fields given off by electronic equipment, including computers, lamps, wiring and more, may also impact your health, according to research by Imperial College's Centre for Environmental Policy.

The fields, dubbed "electro-pollution," charge tiny particles in the air including viruses, bacteria, allergens and more.

When you breathe in these particles, the electrical charge makes them adhere to the tissue in your lungs and respiratory tract, which can cause infection. Asthma, the flu and other respiratory illnesses can then result.

You can reduce your risk, the researcher said, by making sure laptop computers are "earthed" and unplugging electrical equipment when it's not being used.

What's on Your Computer Keyboard?

The air isn't the only thing to worry about in your office. Your computer keyboard is also potentially hazardous.

According to a study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, you may be transferring two or more types of bacteria onto your fingertips while you type.

Reach a Higher Level of Office Clean With PerfectClean


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Two (2) All-Purpose Terry Cloths

  • Use these on your desktop, telephone, keyboard, doorknobs & frames, chair-arms/back, file cabinets, other office furniture and surfaces. Can be used dry or lightly dampened.

Two (2) Super Silk Finesse Cloths

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Twenty-five computers from the University of North Carolina's (UNC) burn intensive care unit, cardiothoracic intensive care unit and six nursing units were tested for bacteria. The researchers found that every computer keyboard was contaminated with two or more microorganisms.

The bacteria that was found was the type that could be detrimental to hospital patients:

  • All keyboards tested positive for a staph bacterium called coagulase-negative staphylococci. This is one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections among those hospitalized.

  • 80 percent of keyboards contained diphtheroids. This bacteria represents a significant infection risk for those whose immune systems are weak, such as cancer and AIDS patients.

Phones, desks and your computer's mouse may also be potential sources of bacteria.

What can you do?

You can keep your office clean using the highly recommended commercial-grade PerfectClean OfficePure Pack, which is perfect for getting rid of bacteria in your office, and comes with everything you need to do so.

Unlike ordinary cleaning rags that simply push dirt around, PerfectClean's revolutionary ultramicrofiber construction enables them to reach deep into microscopic crevices (NO other cleaning tool available even comes close!) and remove everything in their path. This includes:

  • All forms of dirt and dust

  • Hair and dander

  • Biological contaminants too small to see with the naked eye

PerfectClean tools are used by leading hospitals, schools and other commercial organizations, and work because at an astonishing 3 microns, the ultramicrofibers are even smaller than most bacteria (each cleaning cloth contains over 300 miles of actual cleaning surface!).

You can also help to clean the air in your office with the PIONAIR Air Treatment System. It generates air-purifying technology that migrates through the area and neutralizes organic odors, microbes, pollutants & molds at their source. The Pionair 350 Unit effectively treats 150 to 350 sq. ft, and is the perfect size for cleaning your office air.

Recommended Reading

What are the Top Injuries in a Typical Office (and How Can You Avoid Them)?

Your Office is a Top Source of Illness-Causing Germs to You!


Environmental Science & Technology August 1, 2007

Atmospheric Environment Volume 41, Issue 25, August 2007, Pages 5224-5235 August 1, 2007

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