Changing printer toner cartridges at the office is a fairly routine maintenance task that goes along with having a laser printer or multifunction device. However, many people often wonder if the contents within these cartridges could be harmful to their health.
Typically, most people don’t wonder, “is printer toner toxic,” until an accidental spill occurs. The fine dust from a toner cartridge can stain clothes, carpets, and skin very quickly. Unwanted stains are undoubtedly annoying but still a far cry from legitimate health concerns.
So, does laser printer toner pose health risks? We will combine our decades of experience in the industry with the current research on the topic to help you better understand the dangers, if any, that come along with changing that printer toner cartridge.
Is Printer Toner Toxic?
If you have ever changed a broken toner cartridge or dropped one on the floor, then you have likely seen fine toner particles kicked into the air. Printer toner behaves much like fine dust, and it doesn’t take much force to cause toner particles to become airborne. Is printer toner bad for your health if you breathe in these fine particles?
Studies have been done on rats to determine the effects of inhaling printer toner. The most prominent study found that rats exposed to low doses of printer toner experienced almost no adverse effects. Rats exposed to more copious amounts of toner did experience some form of lung irritation. However, the level of exposure used in the study was far higher than anyone could reasonably expect to come in contact within an office setting.
Other than lung irritation, the rats in the study did not experience any other adverse health effects. This suggests that printer toner is not toxic and there is minimal risk to your health when breathing in small amounts of toner. The level of toxicity risk presented by regular office use is virtually zero.
Is Printer Toner Harmful to the Eyes or Skin?
Just because something is not toxic does not mean it is not harmful in other ways. In addition to breathing in toner particles, getting these particles in your eyes could be a significant concern. Is printer toner harmful enough to cause severe damage to the eyes or skin?
When in doubt, always consult the MSDS (material safety data sheet) for your brand of printer toner cartridge. In this document, you will find potential risks of printer toner and how to handle spills or accidental contact.
In some cases, printer toner can cause skin or eye irritation. This is only temporary, and usually, very mild. The MSDS will likely recommend rinsing of the exposed skin in the case of a spill. For eye contact with printer toner, you may wish to use an eyewash station or kit.
Can Printer Toner Cause Cancer?
Beyond the immediate concerns of skin irritation or toxicity, some people may be concerned about the potential for printer toner to cause long-term issues like cancer. Could inhaling printer toner have similar effects to smoking and put people at risk for serious conditions like lung cancer?
Luckily, printer toner is not listed as a known or probable carcinogen. Carcinogens are substances that can cause changes to a cell’s DNA. These damaged cells can replicate unexpectedly and become out of control. This is what defines cancer.
For people working in an office environment, exposure to toner is not a notable cancer concern. The acute effects of coming in contact with toner are mild, and the risk of long-term, chronic illness like cancer is negligible.
Handling Toner Cartridges Safely
Although the risk of handling toner cartridges is very low, you may still wish to take some rudimentary precautions. These simple suggestions can substantially reduce the chance for even mild irritations as a result of accidental contact with toner.
Wearing gloves when changing toner cartridges is a great way to prevent toner from coming in contact with the skin on your hands as you handle the product. As mentioned previously, skin contact may cause mild irritation but is unlikely to be severe.
Other safety precautions you may wish to take could include wearing a paper mask over your mouth and nose as well as wearing simple safety goggles. These can prevent printer toner from entering your airway or eyes. While the risk of harm is minimal, these additional safety measures may help put your mind at ease.
The Verdict on Printer Toner
Is printer toner toxic? Is printer toner bad for you? If you are concerned about printer toner and its potential effect on your health, then you should be able to rest easy. The risk posed by printer toner is minimal. Of course, taking some additional precautions when handling toner cartridges makes the risk even lower.
Curious if printer toner is also recyclable or biodegradable? Well what do you know, we have an article on that too!