The federal government does not consider it necessary to regulate laser printers more strictly for health care purposes. “Every few years the public speculates that the emissions from laser printers pose great dangers,” writes the lead Federal Environment Ministry in a recently published response to an inquiry from the parliamentary group Die Linke. However, this does not correspond to the current state of research.
There are now a “large number of solid, scientific studies” on the emissions from laser printers, their composition and their “potential health effects”, the government explains. The indoor air hygiene commission at the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) also regularly dealt with research results in this area, most recently in 2017. According to this, laser printers are “one of many sources of indoor air pollution”. However, they “did not represent a specific health hazard”.
General dust limit
This assessment is also shared by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), which is responsible for risk assessment at the workplace, it says in the answer. The emissions from laser printers and copiers are therefore “complex mixtures of volatile compounds, liquid aerosols and solid dusts”, for example from paper, “which generally only contain a small proportion of toner dust”.
According to the BAuA, this generally resulted in “no relevant risks that would have to be taken into account for a risk assessment at the workplace,” explains the Ministry of the Environment. The general dust limit value is relevant for emissions from laser printers and copiers. This is far below this at office workplaces – by a factor of around 100.
Ultra fine particles
On August 25, 2016, the government decided in a Communication under the heading “Air pollution makes sick” against it still sounded the alarm. Particulate matter emissions could have a significant impact on health, it said. The executive and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) therefore classified the phenomenon as generally dangerous.
Ultra-fine particles (UFP) that could be absorbed by the lungs into the blood are particularly worrying, was the tenor of further official assessments at the time. It is possible that they “trigger thromboses, lung cancer, asthma and many other diseases and affect the cardiovascular system,” writes Die Linke. Among other things, the UBA identified printers as the source of UFP indoors and recommended “avoiding exposure at the workplace, including through technical means, as well as from sources in the interior”.
Limit values for ultrafine particles
The Federal Office for Materials Research measured up to 7.6 billion ultra-fine dust particles per printed page, the opposition faction warned. The federal government recognized the dangerousness of fine dust emissions from laser printers in the Workplace Ordinance of 2018, but has not yet set any limit values for UFP. There are many studies that have proven the harmful effects of the particles on health. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment had already pointed out possible risks from printer emissions in 2008.
The Left therefore considers it absolutely necessary that the federal government introduces limit values for UFP in accordance with the precautionary principle and thus protects the health of people who have an office workplace. It is not least about employees of federal authorities.
No recommendations and no further studies
The cited statement from the Federal Press Office was “incorrect” and “corrected shortly after it was published,” the executive countered. Therefore, no measures have been taken and currently do not consider it necessary to set general limit values for indoor spaces. Additional information is expected from a study on UFP in the ambient air published by the UBA between 2016 and March 2020, which is expected to be published in February 2021. Further studies are not planned.