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Is Sitting Next To A Photocopier Bad For You?

Inventions that make our lives easier in the office may cause health problems with the continued exposure of these machines to the environment. Most photocopiers use a technique called xerography that sends a positive electrical charge to the drum inside the machine that imprints the image on the drum. Paper is then passed through a drum to create an image. The process creates heat, discharges particles into the air and emits ultraviolet radiation to the local environment.


According to a report issued by the North Carolina Department of Labor, copying machines can contribute to indoor air pollution. Contaminants include methyl alcohol from spirit duplicators, ammonia and acetic acid from blueprint copiers and ozone from photocopiers. Powder from the toner used in the dry copying machine can escape from the copying machine and enter the air. These contaminants can cause problems for healthy people and can be particularly harmful to people with respiratory problems. The most common symptoms are coughing and sneezing. Some toners have carcinogenic properties that could negatively affect your health.


Photocopiers release ozone into the atmosphere, which is the primary explanation why you should not sit at work next to a copier. Ozone can be captured until it reaches the office by adding an activated carbon filter to the exhaust manifold in the copier, but careful maintenance of the filter is required to decrease ozone levels. If you have ever been in a lightning storm, ozone gives off a distinct odor that you could recognize. High ozone levels and continued exposure to the eyes and respiratory tract can cause irritation.

Ultraviolet Light

In a photocopier, both visible and ultraviolet light is emitted from the lamp during the copying process. The ultraviolet light doesn’t go past the glass plate in the copier in most cases. When producing copies, closing the lid decreases the chance of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Although not considered harmful, if you constantly look at the light although making copies, ultraviolet light emitted from machines can cause eyestrain.

Ventilation and Noise

The use of a dedicated copy room with adequate ventilation decreases the amount of airborne pollutants and increases the consistency of indoor air. Copiers create noise and can lift a room ‘s temperature, which can increase stress on nearby employees. You should stop sitting next to a copier where necessary. Do not place copiers in a carpeted space, as the fibers are caught in dust and pollutants. To eliminate pollutants from the air, use a HEPA air filter or exhaust system and provide enough room around the unit to allow proper heat dissipation.


Another common issue is the toner used by photocopiers and laser printers in the printing process. It is a very fine powder that is not a health threat. However, as with all dust, if one is exposed to a high concentration of it, it can cause respiratory system irritation.

Accidents during cartridge renewal are the most common cause for toner exposure. The toner can become airborne in those cases. While it is considered nothing more than a nuisance dust and has no health consequences other than discomfort, it is best to avoid changing toner cartridges for people who are particularly sensitive to dust particles or have a medical condition (e.g. asthma, bronchitis). The best technique in the event of a spillage is to sweep the dust as closely as possible to avoid producing a dust cloud.

Carbon Black

Carbon black is a powder used as a dye which can account for 5-10% of the toner. Years earlier, Swedish researchers raised fears that it could be carcinogenic, prompting carbon black producers to alter their manufacturing processes. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2010 that insufficient evidence exists to determine that carbon black is carcinogenic to humans.

By Geraoma - Own work, Public Domain,

Are You Looking for a Photocopier Near Concord, California?

Office Machine Specialists has been servicing and selling office equipment since 1995. A family run business that has dedicated our efforts to providing the best equipment options and after-sales service to our clients. Our goal is to ask the right questions and guide our customers to make smart decisions about new machine leases and purchases.  We were servicing copiers long before the internet was a viable resource, and have transitioned to the digital workflow environment of color printing, scanning, account control and fleet management. With over 20 years in the industry we have extensive experience with many brands and consider OMS to be a valuable resource to any organization. Contact us for all of your copier needs here!