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▸ March 1, 2016

How Toxic Is a Broken Ink Toner Cartridge?

Copiers and laser jet printers are commonplace in almost any office today. Ink toners used in copiers and laser printers have a very low toxicity and should not cause any alarm in the office environment, even in the case of a broken toner cartridge.

Environmental Protection Agency Testing
The EPA conducted extensive tests on toner cartridges from January 1987 through December 1988. These tests demonstrated that the potential for skin irritation was very low. Eye irritation was possible but there were no cases of permanent eye damage. The most serious hazard noted was with respiratory exposure. Laboratory rats were exposed to ink and toner dust at levels that approximated 10, 30, and 50 times the levels experienced in the manufacturing process. Rats in the first two groups experienced no ill effects. Rats exposed to 50 times the factory exposure experienced some increase in lung density. As a result, the EPA classified ink toner as a “nuisance dust,” even in the manufacturing environment. There is no expectation of a hazard in the office environment. The EPA does not classify ink and toner as a carcinogen or a mutagen.

First Aid in the Event of Exposure
Ink and toner are not toxic. However, any dust exposure can have ill effects if sufficient quantities are contacted directly by sensitive organs. Eyes should be flushed with clean water in the event that ink and toner directly contacts the eyes. Other skin contact should be cleaned with soap and water. If ink and toner becomes aerosolized, clear the room until the dust settles. Vacuum with a HEPA-filtered vacuum.

Recycling
The principle environmental hazard of ink and toner cartridges is landfill consumption. Businesses worldwide dispose of thousands of ink and toner cartridges each day. A discarded ink and toner cartridges are not biodegradable and takes up land fill space virtually forever. On the other hand, a recycled ink or toner cartridge can be reused up to ten times without product degradation. Many ink and toner dealers pay several dollars each for used ink and toner cartridge. Check with your local supplier. In addition, many charities accept ink and toner cartridges as donations. Some will set up a regular pickup for your used ink and toner cartridges.