Hewlett-Packard has rejected the results of a study by Queensland University showing that office printers can be as harmful to users as smoking (IT-Online 31 July), saying it "does not agree with its conclusion or some of the bold claims the authors have made recently in press reports."
The university study found that about 30% of laser printers emit potentially dangerous levels of fine toner dust which, like the particles in cigarette smoke, lodge inside the lungs.
Begging to differ with the findings in a statement issued on Friday, HP says it stands behind the safety of its products.
"Testing of ultrafine particles is a very new scientific discipline," the company says. "There are no indications that ultrafine particle (UFP) emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks. Currently, the nature and chemical composition of such particles – whether from a laser printer or from a toaster – cannot be accurately characterised by analytical technology. However, many experts believe that many of the UFPs found in common household and office products are not discrete solid particles, but may be condensation products or small droplets created during thermal processes."
The world's biggest computer company agrees that further testing is warranted and says it has been "active" with two leading independent authorities on the subject – US-based Air Quality Services and the Wilhelm-Klauditz Institute in Germany.
"Vigorous tests are an integral part of HP's research and development and its strict quality-control procedures," the statement continues. "HP LaserJet printing systems, original HP print cartridges and papers are tested for dust release and possible material emissions and are compliant with all applicable international health and safety requirements.
"Based on our own testing, HP knows that many variables can affect the outcome of tests for ultrafine particle emissions," the company says. " Although HP is not aware of all of the specific methodologies used in the Queensland study, based on what we've seen in the report – as well as our own work in this area – we do not believe there is a link between printer emissions and any public health risk.
"Specifically, HP does not see an association between printer use by customers and negative health effects for volatile organic compounds, ozone or dust. While we recognise ultrafine, fine, and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognised occupational exposure limits.
"HP hopes to learn more from the study authors about how products were chosen for the study, how ranges were determined given no standards exist, and many other factors that could have influenced the results."