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Do photocopy machines emit radiation?

Dear Cecil:

At work I have occasion to use the Xerox machine. Since I am copying from books, I sometimes have to hold them in position while the light flashes and end up Xeroxing my hand. My question is this: do copying machines emit radiation? If so, what kind?

Office Worker, Los Angeles

Cecil replies:

Cecil replies:

Xerox machines absolutely ooze radiation–but it’s radiation of a friendly and fairly harmless sort known as “light.” No X-rays, or anything of that kind, are involved; it’s a simple photographic process, not that much different from what happens in your Brownie.

No office is complete without the joker who likes to stick his face in the Xerox machine and reel off dozens of hysterically funny poses. Likewise, no office is complete without the stern secretary who continually warns said joker that by persisting in this quaint pursuit he will “ruin his eyes” by exposing them to deadly rays. Alas, this is not true. The most violent visual reaction that a Xerox machine can produce is an “afterimage” like that of a flashbulb. The Xerox Corporation, in its wisdom, used to put a joker-thwarting interlock device on its high-speed copiers, which use an extremely bright light. The flash wouldn’t flash unless the lid was closed. But Xerox’s high-speed copiers today (or at least the model 5090, from what my informants tell me) don’t have such an interlock. In the old day you could count on corporate conscience to save you from your baser instincts. But these days you’re pretty much on your own.

Cecil Adams

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