Think When Using Ink: Why Normal Printer Ink is Harmful

Printers and copiers are very useful machines: they make duplicating documents easy, they can help you print photos in a more affordable way and they make school projects a lot easier to do. But while they are essential to life, their printer ink cartridges can be harmful to you and the environment. Different printer ink can release deadly fumes, while ink cartridges are non-biodegradable, adding to land fills and garbage. Both printer ink and ink cartridges can be toxic in many various ways and here are some reasons why normal, regular printer ink can cause damage to your health and the environment as well.

1. Ink cartridges are non-biodegradable. Every year, people around the world add thousands of tons of garbage in landfills and garbage dumps around the world. Used-up printer ink cartridges are also dumped without much thought in garbage and landfills. These cartridges, which are made of high-grade polymers or plastic, can take up to 1,000 years before they decompose. It’s advisable to practice safe ink cartridges recycling to help save the environment from damage done by improper disposal of printer ink cartridges.

2. Ink cartridges can become corrosive. Thousands of printer ink cartridges are dumped in landfills all over the world. These cartridges can, in turn, become corrosive, flammable and reactive. When burned or punctured, printer ink cartridges can explode or release deadly fumes which can harm the environment and even the people living in areas near landfills or dumpsites.

3. Printer ink residue contains Volatile Organic Chemicals (VCOs). VCOs are harmful substances that can cause birth defects, health problems and even cancer. When ink cartridges are disposed, the leftover ink residue in them can release highly toxic VCOs in the air, water or surrounding environment.

4. Laser printer and photocopier toners can be toxic. Laser printer ink and the ink used for photocopiers contain resins and carbon black, which can be toxic and harmful in huge amounts. Your skin can get irritated if it comes into contact with laser printer ink or ink from photocopiers. It’s recommended that you wash your hands immediately after handling laser printer ink cartridges or photocopier ink, especially after ink cartridges recycling.

5. Particles from laser printers can be more dangerous than smoking. A recent study from Queensland’s University of Technology states that laser printers can release super fine, harmful particles that are as dangerous as cigarette smoke or the emissions from motor vehicles. The microscopic particles in the air near laser printers have been tested to be as much as five times higher than that of pollution outdoors.

It’s surprising that a machine you use everyday can actually be harmful to your health and the environment. Both printer ink and ink cartridges can be toxic if not handled carefully and if companies and offices do not practice proper ink cartridges recycling. To be free from pollutants and to help keep Mother Earth clean and safe, help by saving printer ink, practicing safe ink recycling and by using only environmentally safe, printer ink.


  • I have suffered a terrible RESPIRATORY SYNDROME diagnosed as bronchial hyperreactivity and multiple chemical sensitivity. It was caused by the irritant vapours released by a PHOTOCOPIER AND A LASER PRINTER in my office work although there are influential interests lobbying to prevent illnesses by these machines from being officially recognized as occupational.

    These office machines were releasing (particularly in the 80’s and 90’s before they were technically improved), a cocktail of dozens of irritant chemicals: ozone, VOC released by the melting of the plastic toner, the bleaching substances used for coating the paper released when it is heated, vapours of the metallic drum which may be arsenic, plus the physical particles of toner and paper. The combinated effects of these mixtures, absolutely unknown and not studied, must have had devastating consequences for some office employees breathing them constantly, and most likely were dismissed as psychological or unspecific sick building syndrome among other possibilities.

    I suggest that people who have suffered unexplained, obscure health disturbances and who were breathing the concentrated vapours released by photocopiers and laser printers think of the possibility that these machines were the cause of their ill health and start complaining and acting accordingly.


    These popular office machines can be harmful for the airways if they smell strongly and are intensively used in a small unventilated room where some employee is sitting all the time. This used to happen often in the past decades, before they were fitted with filters and technical improvements to reduce their emissions. A long list of medical and technical reports provide enough hints to take precautions although at the level of the general public there is little knowledge or concern.

    The real risks from these machines are underestimated because the substances they release do not come only from the toner as it is usually studied and reported. Photocopiers and laser printers can emit a complex coctail of dozens of volatile organic compounds coming off the melting of the plastic toner, plus bleaching agents and other covering chemicals coming off the heating of the paper at around 200 degrees C(this is mostly disregarded in all risks assessments) plus varying amounts of ozone,(often very high), plus metallic gases coming off the drum(can be arsenic or selenium) plus the physical particles of the toner and paper. The combined effects of all that mixture at the levels of the airways are most unknown and are not being studied. Only individual assessments of some single gases such as ozone or a few VOC have been done after complaints of users. The conclusions were always to increase ventilation.

    Health complaints that may have happened in some exposed persons have gone sometimes diagnosed as sick building syndrome but usually get misdiagnosed as asthma due to smog, psychosomatic disorders or anything unrelated to printing machines in their jobs.

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  • does it matter how close or how far you are from the printer, because I sit practically quite close to the printer and use it everyday.
    Some one had mentioned to me that it can cause health issues, and have been planning to move it further away from me.

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  • Does anyone have a good explanation about all these 10 garbled items seen in this page? Only three of the messages are readable. Has anyone tried to post here something and found it later like that and useless? Does the webpage administrator know about it?

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  • I am a graphic designer that has worked within 2 and have yards form a XEROX 7750 DN printer for the past 8 years. I’ve complained about the smell and have asked for an emissions report from Xerox which says that the printer is safe and it passes and emissions report. HR has told me that there is no proof that breathing the fumes can be toxic to my health, so there is nothing that can be done. There may be no proof of harm, but I don’t think there is a parent out there who would be comfortable with their children breathing these fumes everyday so why do I have to? Our space is very limited, but we are finally moving the printer to another room – but I don’t know when that will happen. Unfortunately, it has already been 8 years that I have been inhaling these fumes. I a very healthy person, who has perfect attendance, so I show no unusual signs of illness. Is this something I should worry about? Can I have a doctor give me a test?

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