What Do Printers, Photocopies, and Receipts Have to Do with Allergies?


My family and friends know that I write for an allergy relief company, so I'm often asked for advice about which products to buy or about allergies in general. This week, my mother asked me why her eyes were itching. She doesn't typically have allergies, but she noticed that after doing professional organizing for a certain client of hers, she often comes home with smarting eyes.

_At first I thought it was just a reaction to dust, but this time she had an additional piece of information. My mother had noticed that her eyes seemed really bothered after filing paper that had either been photocopied or was NCR paper. This is carbonless carbon paper; NCR stands for ‘no carbon required.’

_I was fascinated. I knew that printer cartridges could contaminate indoor air. As described in our learning center article, How small is a micron and why does it matter?, particles from laser printers and copiers are actually among the most dangerous indoor air pollutants:

The size of a given particle helps to determine the degree of potential threat to human health. Particles ranging from .3 to .9 micron present the greatest health concern.

These irritating mid-range particles include

8 thoughts on “What Do Printers, Photocopies, and Receipts Have to Do with Allergies?

  1. Lisa September 14, 2013 / 11:11 pm

    I work in a retail store, where we put up store tags weekly. My hands just burn while I do this. It's only when I hang the tags.

  2. Patricia March 10, 2014 / 10:52 am

    Hope the gloves help Martha. I wear nitrile gloves at work and around home when I can but can't wear them all the time without looking silly so I do still have outbreaks which I do think may be from receipt paper. I am having a terrible outbreak right now and its awful. Hurts, bleeds. I'm hoping the problem will go away some day as quickly as it appeared. Good Luck.

  3. Patricia November 18, 2013 / 10:34 am

    In 2008, at age 50+, I started to have a terrible reaction on the fingertips and hands. It was like my skin was burned. It was itchy, burned, would split open and bleed. For years I could not figure out what was the culprit. I went to allergists, dermatologist, had all kinds of testing and nothing. I did narrow it down to the paper I was handling and now wear gloves when I can which I do believe has helped tremendously but I still do get reactions but not as bad. It is embarrassing at my age to always wear bandaids all over my fingers and hands. This is the first I've seen this post. Maybe the problem really is paper and or BPA, NCR. What do you think? I am at my wit's end! Thank you!

  4. George Baines February 20, 2013 / 2:43 pm

    Thanks for your reply.
    I'm pretty sure that it's not the newsprint as I associate greatest reaction from touching the edge of the sheets. I feel slight discomfort from this straightaway and if I then wash my hands immediately the side-effects later seem to be less. There may be something else they are putting on the paper that is affecting me. I wonder whether the fact that the paper is heated in the photo-copier has a bearing on how whatever-it-is is released.

  5. George Baines February 20, 2013 / 9:27 am

    For a few years now I have been experiencing problems with the skin on my hands after handling paper, especially after it comes out of a photocopier and also if it is coarse newspaper.
    The skin appears to die and then peels off after a while.
    I did not used to get these problems I am 64. Could this be due to BPA in re-cycled paper? Are some people more sensitive to BPA than others?

  6. Nancy April 26, 2013 / 9:38 am

    I have NOT been bothered by photocopies or receipts, but I am EXTREMELY affected by NCR paper. Just filling out one form and my eyes and nose itch and I start coughing. I have found that anything that gets it away from me” is effective, washing my hands with soap and water and rubbing some water on my nose is my preferred method; but alcohol-based hand cleaner is my next choice – I've found that it seems to get whatever is airborne and bothering me is no longer airborne and my allergy symptoms do not advance.”

  7. Martha March 8, 2014 / 10:31 am

    Patricia, I have a very similar problem. The pores on my right hand where it rests on paper when I right it raised in bumps, red and irritated. I thought it might be a soap allergy but switching soap didn't improve it. Thanks for the glove idea.

  8. George Baines March 28, 2014 / 8:08 am

    Over the last few years I have noticed a similar problem to Patricia's as well as that recorded in my earlier posts, with the skin generally at the end of my fingers usually thumb, index or middle sometimes hardening and cracking then bleeding from the wound and being itchy. Generally I have to put plasters on with Savlon or similar to get these to heal up. I haven't correlated this so directly with the paper-handling as the other effect, which is more noticeably on the pads of the fingers than on the tips. It seems to be worse overnight, once started, and I wonder whether there could even be an allergy to something in the bed-sheets? More comments please!

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