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Printer ink and toners: What are the risks?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2021 | Workers' Compensation |

When you think about commercial printers and ink or toner cartridges, you may not think that they’re very dangerous. However, being exposed to certain inks may be dangerous. Additionally, inks and toners may be flammable, which makes them a hazard in offices and other workplaces.

While liquid printer ink is considered to be nontoxic, toners are not quite the same. Toners are used in laser printers and use fine powder rather than liquid ink. The fine powder melts onto paper to make a print. This powder isn’t usually dangerous in smaller quantities, but if the fumes are released, it can be dangerous to breathe the powder in.

Watch out for broken toner cartridges

Broken toner cartridges may release carbon black. This is a chemical used to make black toner that is toxic if it’s inhaled or ingested.

Watch out for liquid ink, too

Even though liquid ink isn’t dangerous in small quantities and is considered to be nontoxic, it can cause some uncomfortable symptoms if it gets on the skin or is ingested. Skin irritation may occur if the ink is on the skin for too long, for example.

Ultrafine particles pose a threat to office workers

When laser printing, volatile organic-chemical substances, or VOCs, are released into the air. These do have the potential to be harmful to you and others in your workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does require employers to provide hazard training on working with ink and toners and to have a hazard statement prepared. All hazardous chemicals, even if they’re not particularly dangerous, do need to be marked in the workplace.

What should you do if you’re exposed to high levels of VOCs?

If you’re exposed to high levels of VOCs, you may develop:

  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Symptoms of asthma

Prolonged exposure to VOCs such as methylene chloride, for example, may cause weakness, dizziness and headaches.

If you don’t feel well after working with toner or inks, let your employer know. Even if this is an allergy or unexpected side effect, you deserve to have proper medical attention. This injury or illness may be covered by workers’ compensation, as well.

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