Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 91–99 | Cite as

Occupational and consumer risk estimates for nanoparticles emitted by laser printers

  • Otto Hänninen
  • Irene Brüske-Hohlfeld
  • Miranda Loh
  • Tobias Stoeger
  • Wolfgang Kreyling
  • Otmar Schmid
  • Annette Peters
Special focus: Safety of Nanoparticles


Several studies have reported laser printers as significant sources of nanosized particles (<0.1 μm). Laser printers are used occupationally in office environments and by consumers in their homes. The current work combines existing epidemiological and toxicological evidence on particle-related health effects, measuring doses as mass, particle number and surface area, to estimate and compare the potential risks in occupational and consumer exposure scenarios related to the use of laser printers. The daily uptake of laser printer particles was estimated based on measured particle size distributions and lung deposition modelling. The obtained daily uptakes (particle mass 0.15–0.44 μg d−1; particle number 1.1–3.1 × 109 d−1) were estimated to correspond to 4–13 (mass) or 12–34 (number) deaths per million persons exposed on the basis of epidemiological risk estimates for ambient particles. These risks are higher than the generally used definition of acceptable risk of 1 × 10−6, but substantially lower than the estimated risks due to ambient particles. Toxicological studies on ambient particles revealed consistent values for lowest observed effect levels (LOELs) which were converted into equivalent daily uptakes using allometric scaling. These LOEL uptakes were by a factor of about 330–1,000 (mass) and 1,000–2,500 (particle surface area) higher than estimated uptakes from printers. This toxicological assessment would indicate no significant health risks due to printer particles. Finally, our study suggests that particle number (not mass) and mass (not surface area) are the most conservative risk metrics for the epidemiological and toxicological risks presented here, respectively.


Health effects Risk assessment Toxicology Epidemiology Baseline toxicity High toxicity Occupational safety 



Area mean diameter; particle surface area weighted particle diameter


Count median diameter; median particle diameter of an particle number distribution


Geometric standard deviation


Lowest observed effect level


Low toxicity low solubility particles


Mass mean diameter; particle mass weighted particle diameter


Particle number concentration (particles per cm³)

PM (PM2.5, PM10)

Particulate matter (particle size below 2.5 or 10 μm)


Relative risk (of exposed group in comparison to non-exposed in an epidemiological study)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Otto Hänninen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Irene Brüske-Hohlfeld
    • 1
  • Miranda Loh
    • 2
  • Tobias Stoeger
    • 3
  • Wolfgang Kreyling
    • 3
  • Otmar Schmid
    • 3
  • Annette Peters
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of EpidemiologyHelmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU)NeuherbergGermany
  2. 2.National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)KuopioFinland
  3. 3.Institute of Lung Biology and DiseaseHelmholtz Zentrum München, German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU)NeuherbergGermany

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