Office Items Linked to Health Problems

A study reveals that exposure to self-copying paper may trigger headaches, eye problems or respiratory symptoms.

Another reason to take an extra long holiday break this year: Some commonly used office items, such as carbonless (self-copying) paper, photocopiers, display terminals, can cause a range of health problems, according to a recent study.

Exposure to self-copying paper may trigger headaches, eye problems or respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and acute bronchitis in workers, researchers report.

Photocopying appears to be linked to nasal irritation, and working at a video display terminal may be linked to "eye symptoms, headache, and lethargy," according to the study findings, which are publishedin December issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The "occupational hazards of the modern office environment should not be overlooked," warned Dr. Martina Jaakkola and Jouni Jaakkola, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The findings come from a comparison between the job descriptions and health histories of nearly 2,700 Finnish office workers.

The investigators found that "handling self-copying paper increases the risk of chronic respiratory symptoms as well as respiratory infections, such as sinusitis and acute bronchitis."

For example, workers who handled self-copying paper on a regular basis were at more than 80 percent higher risk for sore or scratchy throats than unexposed co-workers.

Workers in regular contact with self-copying paper also complained more often of eye and skin irritation, headache, and lethargy, according to the authors.

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