Footprint for Indoor Air Quality: Stop Laser Printers!

By Achim Stelting, nano-Control foundation


In just 20 years the prevalence of allergies has doubled. One in three people now suffers from allergic reactions. Asthma is the most common chronic condition in children and youths. Four million people are diabetes patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of cancer will have increased by 20 per cent in 2025. Skin cancer cases have doubled in ten years. Sickness absenteeism from work is at a 20-year-high and one in four employees will be incapacitated before reaching retirement age. Those developments have underlying causes.

As early as 1995 the American environmental authority realized that polluted indoor air is one of the biggest risk factors to the national health, especially so because we spend 80 to 90 per cent of our time inside buildings. As room air is unfiltered breathing air it should be as worthy of protection as food. The USEPA statement came after an investigation into the emissions of copying machines. Today, around one billion laser printers and copiers around the world emit billions of mainly ultra-fine particles per page – unfiltered and with fatal consequences.

At the invitation of Professor Dr Michael Braungart, chairman of the Hamburg Environmental Institute, the Hamburg-based foundation nano-Control left behind a special kind of footprint in the form of an art performance in support of healthy room air at the Footprint Days of the 2016 Venice Biennial on August 20 and 21. The biennial, which runs until November 27, 2016, is often referred to as the Olympics of architecture.
For their performance the „Nanos“ took signs from the very convincing Sick-Building exhibition (from which garden gnomes – which are known as nanos in Greek – flee) as well as from the light and airy building that’s as useful as a tree, adorned them with warning messages similar to those on cigarette packs, and


brought those messages into the fresh air.
The stroll through the world of architecture, which was accompanied by Monika Griefahn, was stopped quickly by security guards and police officers equipped with automatic pistols, but the message had already been sent: Printer Emitted Particles Can Ruin Your Health! Even the friendly policemen were interested.

In order to rescue the garden gnomes, nano-Control equipped two of them with fine particle masks upon their return to the Sick-Building.

Four days after the performance the German government warned for the first time against health risks associated with nano particles emitted by laser printers. If we’ve learned anything from nano particles it’s the fact that even the tiniest nanos can have huge consequences.

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