Fine and ultrafine particles emitted from laser printers as indoor air contaminants in German offices
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Various publications indicate that the operation of laser printers and photocopiers may be associated with health effects due to the release of gaseous components and fine and ultrafine particles (UFP). However, only sparse studies are available that evaluate the possible exposure of office workers to printer emissions under real conditions. Therefore, the aim of our study was to assess the exposure of office workers to particulate matter released from laser printers and photocopiers.
Concentrations of fine particles and UFP were measured before, during, and after the operation of laser printing devices in 63 office rooms throughout Germany. Additionally, the particles were characterized by electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy.
A significant increase of fine particles and UFP was identified in ambient workplace air during and after the printing processes. Particle fractions between 0.23 and 20 μm emitted by the office machines significantly affect particle mass concentrations while printing 500 pages, i.e., during the printing process, PM0.23–20, PM2.5, and PM10 concentrations increased in 43 out of the evaluated 62 office rooms investigated. Additionally, a significant increase was observed in submicrometer particles, with median particle number concentrations of 6,503 particles/cm3 before and 18,060 particles/cm3 during the printing process.
Our data indicate that laser printers and photocopiers could be a relevant source of fine particles and particularly UFP in office rooms.
KeywordsLaser printers Photocopiers Emissions Office room measurements Ultrafine particles Health effects
We thank Thomas Eikmann, Caroline Herr, and Anja zur Nieden from the Department Hygiene and Environmental Health for their valuable help in examining the office workers regarding health effects as well as Anja Schnecko, Department of Environmental and Indoor Toxicology of the Gießen University Medical Center. Additionally, we thank numerous colleagues, especially Michael Wensing, Günter Oberdörster, Hans-Jörn Moriske, and Christine Däumling, who critically reviewed our data and discussed the outcome and implications with us within the BfR risk assessment process. Furthermore, we cordially thank Joachim Schneider, Bernd Brückel, and Klaus Rödelsperger from the Department of Occupational Medicine at Gießen University Medical Centre for the electron microscope analysis. Klaus Rödelsperger, expert for TEM and REM analysis, sadly died unexpectedly during the study. Additionally, we thank Dirk Bültermann, Thomas Kreis, and Hans von Rechenberg for their valuable contribution as occupational physicians. Last but not the least, we thank the heads of the office units who contributed to the study, i.e., allowed us to perform parts of the study in their buildings.
The research project was funded by the German Federal Environment Agency and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Berlin.
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