Oh noes, that study claiming that laser printer particles are dangerous is shaping up to be just as contentious as those studies proving that cellphones are/aren't dangerous. As you'll recall, the Queensland University study tested 62 "relatively new" laser printers from Canon, HP, and Toshiba and found 17 to be "high emitters" of potentially dangerous, ultra-fine toner particles. Of these, all but one (a Toshiba model) were manufactured by HP. As you'd expect, HP has issued a formal response courtesy of Tuan Tran, HP's vice president of marketing for supplies. Perhaps predictably after such a damning report, HP's response can be summarized as an attempt to both discredit and mock the research while standing behind the safety of their products. Tuan first ridicules the study by stating "the nature and chemical composition of such particles – whether from a laser printer or from a toaster – cannot be accurately characterized by analytical technology." He goes on to say that, "Testing of ultrafine particles is a very new scientific discipline. There are no indications that ultrafine particle (UFP) emissions from laser printing systems are associated with special health risks." HP does agree with the study's assessment that "more testing in this area is needed" and claims to be actively engaged in the process. Since HP's statement came our way via a PR agency and not HP's official news site, we offer you their complete response after the break. While it's tempting to label HP the Big Tobacco of the printer business, don't; it's far too early to jump to such conclusions. Still, with a press release like this, they're not making it easy on anyone.

Below is the response from Tuan Tran, HP's vice president of marketing for supplies, to the Laser Printer Emissions Study released by Queensland University of Technology:
After a preliminary review of the Queensland University of Technology research on particle emission characteristics of office printers, HP does not agree with its conclusion or some of the bold claims the authors have made recently in press reports.

HP stands behind the safety of its products. Testing of ultrafine particles is a very new scientific discipline. 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 characterized 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.

HP agrees more testing in this area is needed, which is why we've been active with two of the world's leading independent authorities on this subject: Air Quality Sciences in the United States 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. 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. In addition to meeting or exceeding these guidelines, HP's design criteria for its laser printing systems incorporate guidelines from both the Blue Angel program in Germany and the Greenguard program in the United States.

Based on our own testing, HP knows that many variables can affect the outcome of tests for ultrafine particle emissions. 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 recognize ultrafine, fine, and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognized 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.

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