We cannot imagine life without photocopiers and printers, at least in our offices. Despite many offices’ endeavour to make themselves paperless, or completely digital, and governments’ efforts to coax citizens to register, apply, and do relevant work online, photocopiers remain a way of life, especially in the developing nations. Printers, as we know, are prevalent even in the developed world. Unfortunately, both have negative environmental impacts, and affect a person’s health. One, the toner in the machines emit “toner particles” that add to the air pollution. In addition, they add to the amounts of toxic elements such as “ozone, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, radiation, particulate and paper particles, nano particles, apart from low-frequency electromagnetic fields”.
An Indian study states that although the health impacts are “inconclusive and not comprehensive”, some researchers conclude that the exposure to such emissions can lead to symptoms such as “breathlessness, non-allergic rhinitis, sore throat, cough, asthma, pseudo allergic inflammation of the respiratory tract, upper respiratory tract infections, skin and eye irritations, headache, sick building syndrome, siderosilicosis”, etc. A few studies report “elevated DNA damage among operators in photocopier centres”. There is also a fear that some of these emissions may be carcinogenic, and lead to cancer among humans.
Ink cartridges, when discarded, add to the chemicals in land and air, which can have indirect impacts on plants, animals, and humans. What is most important is that photocopiers and printers tend to result in increased use of paper, which can by hugely harmful if it has an organic origin, i.e. from the pulp. A huge number of trees are cut to manufacture paper. This is why experts encourage the use of recycled toners and cartridges, which can be refilled at cheaper costs. They also urge offices and homes to become paperless through the use of the digital technology, such as emails and social media networks.