During the Footprint Days in August, the Hamburger Umweltinstitut (HUI) and the international foundation nano-Control shaked things up and left their footprint to raise the issue of good indoor air quality and how to create a healthy indoor environment. According to Michael Braungart: “ While we can actively decide not to smoke or drink alcohol, we cannot protect ourselves from inhaling fine dust. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease and the biggest health threat that we are constantly exposed to. An intelligently designed built environment can solve these issues and even pay a positive contribution to our living environment”.

 

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Footprint for Indoor Air Quality: Stop Laser Printers!

Blog by Achim Stelting, President nano-Control

In just 20 years the frequency of allergies has doubled. Today one in three people suffer from allergic reactions. Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children and young adults. Four million people have diabetes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer will have increased by 20 per cent in 2025 and skin cancer diagnoses have doubled in ten years. Sick leave has is at a 20-year-high and one in four employees will be become unable to work before reaching retirement age. Those developments have underlying causes.

As early as 1995 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) realized that polluted indoor air is one of the biggest risks to national health, especially because we spend 80 to 90 per cent of our time inside buildings. Since indoor air is breathing air, it should be as worthy of protection as food. USEPA’s statement came after an investigation of the emissions of copying machines. Today, around one billion laser printers and copiers around the world emit billions of mainly ultra-fine nanoparticles per page: unfiltered and with fatal consequences.

Invited by Professor Dr Michael Braungart, the Hamburg-based foundation nano-Control organized an art performance in support of healthy indoor air at the Central Pavilion of the Biennale Architettura 2016 on August 20 and 21. For their performance the nano-Control-team used the protest signs, which are normally part of the exhibition to exemplify the critics towards conventional architecture. The protest signs were decorated with warning messages similar to those on cigarette packs, and were taken outside for a walk in fresh air. In order to protect the garden gnomes inside the sealed and unhealthy building in the exhibition room, nano-Control equipped two of them with fine particle masks. Fun fact: garden gnomes are known as nanos in Greek.

The awareness stroll with the protest signs through the world of architecture was stopped quickly by security guards and police officers equipped with automatic rifles, but the message had already been sent: Printer Emitted Particles Can Ruin Your Health! Even the friendly policemen were interested.

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