Research reveals that particulate pollution in print shops cannot be underestimated

Wang Yun’s research group, associate professor of the School of Public Health of Peking University, has conducted a series of studies on the impact of particulate matter emitted by indoor printers, copiers and other electronic products on human health for many years. Recently, the journal Environmental Geochemistry and Health published the group’s paper “Exposure Assessment and Characterization of Particulate Matter in Print Stores” online.

Print shop particulate exposure levels and their physicochemical characteristics. (Photo courtesy of the research group)

Wang Yun introduced that particulate pollution is one of the most important pollutants in the air, which can endanger human health and cause diseases such as the respiratory system and cardiovascular system. People spend about 90% of their time in indoor environments such as homes, offices, schools, etc., so they are exposed to indoor particulate matter more than atmospheric particulate matter. With the popularity of electronic products such as printers and copiers, particulate matter released during their work has become an important source of indoor air pollution. Long-term exposure to particulate matter released by printers can lead to numerous health effects.

The previous research of the research group found that long-term inhalation of particulate matter released by the printer will lead to a decrease in lung function parameters and an increase in blood pressure parameters of print shop employees, and the change of cardiopulmonary function parameters of print shop employees with more than 10 years of experience is more obvious. Short-term inhalation of particulate matter from printers in print shops in healthy youth (2 hours per day for 7 days) can alter heart rate variability parameters; Respiratory and systemic inflammatory responses were observed in exposed animals where particulate matter released by the printer was inhaled, and health hazards were more pronounced at high exposure levels.

The hazard of particulate matter is closely related to its particle size (particle size refers to the size of particles, spherical particles generally refer to the diameter of the sphere) and chemical composition. The smaller the particle size, the deeper the part of the respiratory tract; And the smaller the particle size, the stronger the adsorption capacity, and the surface can adsorb various chemicals, making its composition very complex.

In order to accurately assess the health risk of particulate matter released by the printer, the research group conducted on-site monitoring of a university on-campus print shop, and compared and analyzed the difference in particulate matter concentration in the indoor environment of the printing shop in two periods with different printing and copying volumes. Samples of particulate matter and toner released by the printer are collected in the store to compare and analyze the morphology, particle size and chemical composition of the particles.

The study found that the exposure level of particulate matter in the printing store increased with the increase of printing and copying time and workload, and the highest mass concentrations of PM10, PM2.5 and PM1 were 212.73, 91.48 and 80.59 μg·m-3, respectively, and the highest concentration of PM1 was 1348.84 P·cm-3. Printer-released particulate matter (PEPs) and toner are primarily complex mixtures of near-round and irregularly shaped particles of different sizes.

Compared to toner, printers release particles that are smaller in size and contain more organic components and metals.

Wang Yun said that the study clarified the occupational exposure level and physical and chemical properties of particulate matter in print stores. As the amount of printing and copying increases, indoor particulate pollution levels gradually increase, resulting in higher peak particulate concentrations.

Considering that printers release particulate matter with a particle size of less than 900 nm, it easily reaches deep in the respiratory tract and its lung tissue, and due to its complex chemical composition, it can lead to greater health hazards; The significant increase in the amount of polycyclic aromatic meridians in particulate matter released by printers has also raised concerns about the carcinogenic risk of particulate matter. Therefore, the health risks of inhalation of particulate matter by print shop employees should be taken seriously. Researchers will further conduct research on ultrafine particulate matter and develop occupational exposure limits for ultrafine particulate matter to protect public health. (Source: Cui Xueqin, China Science News)

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