Effects of Laser Printer-Emitted Engineered Nanoparticles on Cytotoxicity, Chemokine Expression, Reactive Oxygen Species, DNA Methylation, and DNA Damage: A Comprehensive in Vitro Analysis in Human Small Airway Epithelial Cells, Macrophages, and Lymphoblasts

Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Feb;124(2):210-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409582. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Background: Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) incorporated into toner formulations of printing equipment become airborne during consumer use. Although information on the complex physicochemical and toxicological properties of both toner powders and printer-emitted particles (PEPs) continues to grow, most toxicological studies have not used the actual PEPs but rather have primarily used raw toner powders, which are not representative of current exposures experienced at the consumer level during printing.

Objectives: We assessed the biological responses of a panel of human cell lines to PEPs.

Methods: Three physiologically relevant cell lines--small airway epithelial cells (SAECs), macrophages (THP-1 cells), and lymphoblasts (TK6 cells)--were exposed to PEPs at a wide range of doses (0.5-100 μg/mL) corresponding to human inhalation exposure durations at the consumer level of 8 hr or more. Following treatment, toxicological parameters reflecting distinct mechanisms were evaluated.

Results: PEPs caused significant membrane integrity damage, an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokine release in different cell lines at doses equivalent to exposure durations from 7.8 to 1,500 hr. Furthermore, there were differences in methylation patterns that, although not statistically significant, demonstrate the potential effects of PEPs on the overall epigenome following exposure.

Conclusions: The in vitro findings obtained in this study suggest that laser printer-emitted engineered nanoparticles may be deleterious to lung cells and provide preliminary evidence of epigenetic modifications that might translate to pulmonary disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Chemokines / genetics*
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Cytotoxins / toxicity*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Nanoparticles / toxicity*
  • Printing
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytotoxins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species