What Are the Dangers of Sitting Next to a Copy Machine?

By Avery Martin

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


Photocopiers emit ozone into the air, which is the main reason you should not sit next to a copier at work. Fitting an activated carbon filter to the exhaust manifold in the copier can trap ozone before it gets into the office, but proper maintenance of the filter is necessary to reduce ozone levels. Ozone gives off a distinct odor that you might recognize if you have ever been in a lightning storm. High levels of ozone and continued exposure can cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract.


According to a report issued by the North Carolina Department of Labor, copy 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 toner used in dry copiers can escape from the copier and get into the air. These contaminants can cause issues for healthy people and can prove especially harmful to people with respiratory problems. The most common symptoms include coughing and sneezing. Some toners contain carcinogenic properties that could negatively affect your health.

Ultraviolet Light

During the process of creating copies, both visible and ultraviolet light emits from the lamp in a photocopier. In most instances, the ultraviolet light doesn't go beyond the glass plate in the copier. Closing the lid while making copies reduces the risk of exposure to ultraviolet light. While not considered harmful, ultraviolet light emitted from machines may cause eyestrain if you continually look at the light while making copies.

Ventilation and Noise

Using a dedicated copy room with adequate ventilation reduces the amount of contaminants in the air and improves indoor air quality. Copiers produce noise and can raise the temperature of a room, which can increase stress on nearby workers. When possible, you should avoid sitting next to a copier. Don't place copiers in a carpeted room, because dust and pollutants are trapped in the fibers. Use a HEPA air filter or exhaust system to remove contaminants from the air and provide enough space around the machine to allow for proper dissipation of heat.