There was a time that if you wanted to print or copy something, you either had to do this in your office or do this at a specialist printer. This was before the advent of home computing and the printer and scanner. Now days most homes and small businesses have a printer and scanner so getting things printed or copied is a lot easier than it used to be. This also means though that there are a lot more homes and small offices with toner cartridges in them and toner can be a hazardous substance if not handled properly. If you have an ink jet printer then this is not so much of a problem. With a laser jet printer though, the toner is so fine that if there is a spill, then the particles can remain in the air for quite some time. With so many cheap toner cartridges in the UK available, it is important that these are handled correctly and also safely.
What is Toner?
The toner in your modern day machines is made up from the following materials;
- Carbon Powder
- Iron Oxide
- Various Polymers
The early forms of toner did not have any sort of polymers in it and was just made up of the first three ingredients. The polymer was added at a later date to improve the print quality which was achievable and to improve efficiency. The polymers which are used do vary from each of the manufacturers and these can be styrene butadiene copolymer, styrene acrylate copolymer or a polyester resin to name a few. The size of the particles has been reduced to around 8–10 micrometers which allows you to reach a 600 DPI (Dots per Inch) resolution. The smaller the particles size of the toner then the finer the print that can be achieved, resulting in a better quality print. It is the toners small particle size which can cause problems when there is an accident, and this gets spilled.
The Dangers of Toner
As the powder in toner is so fine, when it is spilt it can remain in the air for quite some time afterwards. The health effects have also been compared to inert dust. If someone suffers from a respiratory illness such as bronchitis or Asthma, then the fine dust in the toner can irritate the condition if spilt and not dealt with quickly or safely. There have been reports that the particles in toner can be carcinogenic, and this was reported in an unpublished report which studied people who worked with printers and copiers. They were studied for a number of years, and the reports stated that there was an increased chance of lung problems for people who worked closely with toner. These reports have not been fully substantiated though, and further studies are required to see if the results which were seen were 100% accurate.
Cleaning Toner Up
If you have an accident with toner and it gets on your skin or clothes, then you should use cold water to wash the powder off. Using hot water will make the particles bond with the surface and will be much harder to remove. If the toner does get fused to the skin then you can either use an abrasive to get rid of this or it will eventually wear off. Usually it will not come out of clothing though if it has bonded with the material. You should not use a normal household vacuum cleaner to clean up a spill as toner particles have electrostatic properties and they can cause a static charge and even combustion if you attempt to clean with a normal vacuum cleaner. This can cause damage to the machine or even start a small fire as dust particles are highly combustible. You can get a special type of vacuum cleaner to clean up spills which has a special hose attached and also a high quality filter to make sure the particles do not come back out of the machine. If you do have an accident with toner then you are best of wearing an apron with some plastic gloves and also a face mask when you attempt to clean up the mess. If in a room with a fan or air conditioning, then you will need to turn this off to stop the particles from circulating even more. As long as heat is not applied to the spilt toner, then the particles should not fuse with any surface they touch making it much easier to clean up. If you do have an accident then make sure all children and pets are kept well away and try and clean it up as quickly as possible. There is no concrete proof that toner is harmful in small amounts, but it is better to be safe than sorry!
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