Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive and unstable form of oxygen. The oxygen we breathe (O2) contains only two oxygen atoms, but the ozone (O3) molecule is made up of three oxygen atoms that are bound together. Local and Federal Governments throughout North America and Europe have already banned many devices that produce OZONE for the potentially harmful effects they can have on respiratory health and it is now slowly coming to light that some printer and copier products (due to the technology they employ) have the potential to produce this gas above a threshold of tolerable health standards. Fortunately not all print and copier products produce Ozone (O3).
“Ozone (O3), when released through conventional laser copy/print systems, is hazardous to the health of staff”, and Ozone filters offer only temporary protections, as noted in a recent health Xchange* article – “Your Office Copier May Not Be As harmless As You Think” – May 16/12
HOW SERIOUS IS OZONE TO YOUR HEALTH?
In North America, Europe and elsewhere the air pollution profile has gradually changed toward a more pronounced photochemical component.
- Even very low traces of ozone can be harmful to the upper respiratory tract and the lungs. *
- Individuals who have preexisting lung problems, such as emphysema, bronchitis, or asthma, are even more at risk for the effects of ozone (O3). Children are also more susceptible to the effects of ozone (O3) and can increase their sensitivity to allergens.*
- When ozone (O3) is produced in an indoor environment, it is also usually in combination with other pollutants, such as VOCs. There is evidence that ozone (O3) increases the danger associated with exposure to other environmental particles and allergens making individuals more prone to infection and decreasing their ability to get rid of inhaled particles.*
- The severity of injury from ozone would depend on both the amount and the duration of exposure.
- Ozone (O3) in the presence of other low-level VOCs may create irritating chemicals known as aldehydes. Aldehydes are strong respiratory irritants and have irritating odors at low concentrations.*
HOW SERIOUS IS EXPOSURE TO COPIERS AND PRINTERS IN THE WORKPLACE?
Some manufacturers report (Federal) ozone emissions in Parts per Million (ppm) and others in µg/m3 and some even in mg/hr. There is no clear reporting standard. Although test lab emission levels appear safe (in the new machines tested), with usage, the ozone levels have been measured to soar by factors of 16-33 according to Environment Protection Agency (EPA) tests meaning Ozone filters must be changed regularly!
The US Food and Drug Administration established .05ppm as a maximum expsoure. Vendors who report test lab emissions levels of .003ppm could therefore be emitting ozone at double the recommended maximum (.003×33 – .099).
Health Canada’s Residential indoor Air Quality Guideline for ozone recommends a maximum exposure of 40µg/m3 based on an 8 hour average. Products with output emission levels of 6µg/m3 * in laboratory tests could therefore possibly be emitting ozone at almost 5 times Health Canada’s guidelines or twenty times the threshold for measurable increases in mortality. Many machines emit ozone at these levels.
SMALL AMOUNTS OVER LONGER PERIODS EQUALLY DANGEROUS
The Vermont Department of Health notes:
“Breathing ozone may also increase the risk of getting certain lung diseases. People can recover from short-term exposure at low levels of ozone; however, breathing high levels of ozone or low levels over long periods may have more damaging or longer lasting effects.”
The problem with governments is that they only act when people become aware of the issue and complain. Let’s look at the gasoline industry as an example.
“Tetraethyllead (TEL) was first fabricated for use in gasoline in 1923. Shortly after manufacture began, workers at all three plants began to become floridly psychotic and die. Between 1926 and 1965, the prevailing consensus was that lead toxicity occurred only at high levels of exposure and that lead in the atmosphere was harmless. In 1959, the first warnings of adverse health effects of lead were raised. As new data accumulated on health effects of lead at lower doses, the movement to remove lead from gasoline gained momentum. The removal of lead would take place over the next 25 years.”
Copyright 2000 Academic Press
Like it or not, ozone is a threat to our health even in the lowest of quantities. Some manufacturers have seen the writing on the wall and are designing their equipment to completely eliminate the problem. Some however, continue to market old technology in hopes of squeezing a last few dollars from what are now quite obviously obsolete (to put it mildly). The secret to protecting you and your staff is to understand the technology that creates ozone from these devices.
HOW IS OZONE RELEASED AND HOW CAN IT BE ELIMINATED IN COPIERS AND PRINTERS?
Ozone is released by corotron wires that charge laser copier and printer drums so that they will attract toner. These “corotron wires” run parallel to the drum a few millimetres above its surface. At 6,000-8,000 volts, “change” and “transfer” corona emit ozone which the public have been led to believe is contained and neutralized by “ozone filters”.
The problem we now find out is that “ozone filters” cease to function after a relatively few impressions and as EPA tests show, emissions can soar16-33 times above what manufacturers report. To correct the problem, the industry is moving to direct contact charge and transfer rollers that touch the drum and therefore release less ozone. Ideally customers should be sourcing products where ozone emissions are either zero or “below quantifiable limits”.
OZONE FREE PRINTER TECHNOLOGY SOLVES THE PROBLEM
On the left above we have a drum in “printer” cartridge technology and on the right a “drum out” “copier” schematic. Both virtually eliminate the ozone problem. If your current copier or printer or the one you hope to buy has a corotron wire, think twice. Is it better to trust that the ozone filter is protecting you or is it better to source a technology that releases less ozone?
ENVIRONMENTAL PROS AND CONS OF “DRUM IN” AND “DRUM OUT” TECHNOLOGIES
Environmentally the “drum in” printer cartridge technology in the left puts a higher burden on the planet. There are a hundred different materials in a cartridge and they can not be disposed of with a regular recycler. The printer may be cheaper but the cost per page and environmental footprint is significantly larger.
Conventional “copier” technology on the right has a toner cartridge that is 100% plastic and easily recycled without special pick up. Waste is minimal and depending on the manufacturer (ie Kyocera), the drum may never need to be replaced. This technology is more expensive to buy but less expensive to operate. As a general rule of thumb, a “copier” type multifunctional will be less expensive than a “printer” type multifunctional at volumes over 5,000 impressions per month.
Ozone is becoming an important factor in the procurement of office print devices and the corporations with the patented technologies to solve the problem, cost effectively, will prosper and grow and the others will be squeezed out. At 4 Office we have chosen to market what we know to be the safest and most reliable “printer” and “copier” technologies – Lexmark and Kyocera. Hopefully you will give us a chance to explain why both are ozone free.