Exposure to particles from laser printers operating within office workplaces

Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Aug 1;45(15):6444-52. doi: 10.1021/es200249n. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


While recent research has provided valuable information as to the composition of laser printer particles, their formation mechanisms, and explained why some printers are emitters while others are low emitters, questions relating to the potential exposure of office workers remained unanswered. In particular, (i) what impact does the operation of laser printers have on the background particle number concentration (PNC) of an office environment over the duration of a typical working day? (ii) What is the airborne particle exposure to office workers in the vicinity of laser printers? (iii) What influence does the office ventilation have upon the transport and concentration of particles? (iv) Is there a need to control the generation of, and/or transport of particles arising from the operation of laser printers within an office environment? (v) What instrumentation and methodology is relevant for characterizing such particles within an office location? We present experimental evidence on printer temporal and spatial PNC during the operation of 107 laser printers within open plan offices of five buildings. The 8 h time-weighted average printer particle exposure is significantly less than the 8 h time-weighted local background particle exposure, but that peak printer particle exposure can be greater than 2 orders of magnitude higher than local background particle exposure. The particle size range is predominantly ultrafine (<100 nm diameter). In addition we have established that office workers are constantly exposed to nonprinter derived particle concentrations, with up to an order of magnitude difference in such exposure among offices, and propose that such exposure be controlled along with exposure to printer derived particles. We also propose, for the first time, that peak particle reference values be calculated for each office area analogous to the criteria used in Australia and elsewhere for evaluating exposure excursion above occupational hazardous chemical exposure standards. A universal peak particle reference value of 2.0 × 10(4) particles cm(-3) has been proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronics*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Lasers*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / analysis*
  • Time Factors
  • Workplace*


  • Particulate Matter