Are laser printers dangerous?

It seems so.

A team of researchers in Brisbane have found that some laser printers emit small particles into the air.

Potential effects range from respiratory irritation to effects on the cardiovascular system and cancer, Professor Lidia Morawska from the Queensland University of Technology says.

Professor Morawska, who is the director of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, says when inhaled, the ultra-fine particles can travel to the deepest parts of the respiratory tract and then enter the bloodstream.

Strangely enough the team was not testing for laser printer emissions.

Professor Morawska says the findings were made by chance while her team was investigating the efficiency of ventilation in protecting office workers from outdoor pollution.

The report will be released later in the week in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology and will list the 62 printers by make and model.  The list seems to include popular printer manufacturers, Hewlett Packard & Toshiba.

Water usage

In Australia we are in the middle of a particularly bad drought, in Melbourne the dams supplying drinking water capacity are down to approximately 38% and falling between 0.5-1% a week. Without rain in the near future we conceivable will be without drinking water this time next year. Our households, like many others, have been living under water restrictions for about 7 years, in Sydney and now in Melbourne, which basically limits outside water usage. But still the issue remains one of the biggest social issues we face as a nation!

Add into the mix that the WWF recently released an updated list of the world top 10 rivers at risk, Australia’s Murray-Darling river system made the list. This is significant as the area around the Murray-Darling river system provides around 40% of our food, and 70% our irrigation. Without the river system one could only speculate that our food prices would rise dramatically and our importation of food would increase. In 2007 we have seen a massive reduction in the inflows into the system, prompting the government to restrict irrigation.

Unless there are very substantial early, inflows there will be insufficient water available to allow any allocation at the commencement of the 2007-08 water year for irrigation, the environment or any purpose other than critical domestic supplies.

The irony, if you would call it, is based on the WWF Living Planet Report 2006 Australia is only using 5% of our available fresh water as we are unable at this stage to capitalise on all of our fresh water.

Over the last few weeks a few of us in the office have been talking about water usage, what we are doing, and not doing. We are all limiting shower length, stopped watering gardens or are using grey water from washing machines, leavng our cars dirty etc.
There are two areas we wanted some more information, how much water “should” we be using and how much water do our appliances use. This weekend I sat down to try and find out.

Good Water Usage

According to the a brochure from City of Melbourne on calculating water usage using less than 1,200 litres of water per week per person is great, 750 litres is exceptional.

I pulled out our water bills and for the last few years our household has been using about 600 litres per person per week, which is fantastic based on the report. In 2002 and 2003 we were using about 1,500 litres each every week so it does seem that we have made some adjustments in our lifestyle.

But is it enough?

I went looking to find a reference on what is sustainable water usage, although I feel I had limited success. In the UK a report indicates at least a 20% reduction in water usage across domestic and industry from a baseline of 150-180 litres per day. This is supported by figures from The International Food Policy Research Institute in a report Global Water Outlook to 2025, published in September 2002. From the factsheet we see that in 1995 the average daily demand for water in developed countries was 131 litres, rising to 149 litres by 2025. A report from ACT Council of Social Services also references a 20% reduction in domestic water usage.

What reports don’t state is are these figures direct domestic usage or have they been adjusted to include water used as part of food and consumable production?

Taking these number let’s assume a 20% reduction in our domestic water usage is sustainable. Using the Melbourne City recommendations of good water usage is 1200 litre per person per week (171 litres per day) and the UK report’s base line of 150-180 litres. I assume we need to reduce our average water usage to 120 litres to be sustainable.

Our family is using about 90 litres per person per day, which based on the above is sustainable! Woohoo. But if we need a 20% reduction we would need to reduce our domestic consumption to 70 litres per person per day. Which would be difficult without a major change in how we live our life.


The second part of our discussion in the office was how much water is used by our appliances. We have an Asko W640 front loader washing machine which uses between 53-56 litres per cycle depending on our settings. We are averaging 4-5 loads a week so at the top end 280 litres per week.

Our dishwasher is new and based on the manual uses 19 litres for a regular load or 24 litre for a heavy load. We run the dishwasher everyday with about 5 regular loads and 2 heavy or about 143 litres every week.

The 9 year old and the future

Over the weekend our 9 year old expressed an interesting in getting Google Reader setup on his PC as he wanted to read stuff like Dad. This got me thinking again about what he and his generation will expect in a technology sense from their employers when he enters the workforce in 10-12 years.

His world today:-

  • He has had broadband Internet in his bedroom since he was 5. I know some people are against PC’s in kids bedrooms but I feel with the right controls and open communication there are no issues.
  • Doesn’t know what a modem is, or care
  • Has multiple domain’s
  • Knows how to do a podcast, in fact he even has his own favourite
  • Is beginning to understand how to produce online video
  • Prepares PowerPoint presentations at school
  • Love seeing pictures on Flickr
  • Thinks the answer to all of life’s questions can by found through Google, if only it was that simple 🙂
  • Thinks and believes the internet should be accessible everywhere
  • Has used email to communicate with friends and family for 4 years, admittedly he
  • Uses Google Docs, Spreadsheets, GMail and GTalk to collaborate at school and be able to work on school projects at home
  • Thinks Twitter is cool and wants to participate, Dad won’t let him 🙂
  • Loves watching online video, almost as much as regular TV, if only the Simpsons were still on YouTube

In 10 years what will his expectations be? How will an employer be able to entice him to work for them? What work/cultural environment will he want? Will he even work for a single employer?

The answers to these questions should concern employers of all sizes.

Recruiting is marketing. Try jobcasting.

One hour that could save your life

Ok the title might be attention grabbing but the cause is worth it.

There is a movement up in Sydney called EarthHour and the idea is for 1 hour everyone in Sydney should turn off all of their lights. It is being supported by the World Wildlife Foundation Australia and The Sydney Morning Herald (a Fairfax publication, just like The Age for those down south). Following the dramatic turn down of everything the campaign it then looking to cut Sydney’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5% over the coming 12 months.

So what do you do without your lights?

Get the neighbours together for a BBQ or head out to your local park for the hour. Take some binoculars and look at the stars. Or just go for a stroll. Talk with your family and friends about the state of our planet and the need to make a change to keep the place we live the way we need it to be.

Do something non-electric as a family – have a picnic or a have a candlelit dinner – but most importantly enjoy!


  • Get the neighbours together for a BBQ or head out to your local park for the hour
  • A candle-lit dinner for your friends or family
  • Dine in the dark – guess the food you’re eating!
  • Have a kids “camp-over” – pitch a tent in the yard and tell ghost stories

Want to help spread the word? Become their MySpace friend (am I the only one on the planet without one of these?), post your Earth Hour videos on YouTube, your pics on Flickr and tag them “earthhour2007”, use a banner on your site.

The site has some really good ideas of what people can do everyday to help reduce our impact on the environment.

Right now the organisers are only looking for Sydney to participate but it would not hurt if we all got on board. So spread the word!

The environment

A few connected thoughts.

The environment, climate change, and global warming are the talking point of every politician and news organisation at the moment. I get the feeling that there has been a “tipping point” reached and we might actually be making some progress here. Not sure what the trigger event was, maybe Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has had something to do with it but does it really matter?

Speaking on An Inconvenient Truth we finally got around to seeing it on Sunday afternoon. If you have not seen it do so. Personally I found it a great movie and I think Al Gore put together a great presentation that should appeal to a vast majority of people. The movie gets you thinking, “what am I personally doing to help the environment?” There also a blog, and a great ad on You Tube:-

Next thought, this week the WWF released a very interesting report, their update to Living Planet Report 2006, and they have had lots of press around the world. Australia has faired very badly in the report, with the 6th largest ecological footprint! Australian’s are using 6.6 global hectares per person per year we are only behind United Arab Emirates, the US, Finland, Canada and Kuwait, but above New Zealand, UK, Russia, China and Japan. Australia is also the 13th largest water users per person between 1998 and 2002, this is NOT included in the WWF footprint analysis for a number of reasons. Take a look at the full report.

The report also goes on to discuss what could will happen in the future and provides a number of options to reduce our demand on the planet. In a scenario called “Business As Usual” if we do nothing by 2050 our demand for cropland and CO2 generation will have increased by 60%, demand on grazing and fishing by 85% and the use of forests by 110%! We would be in debt to the plant for around 34 years of complete biological production! Guess what it confirms we need to reduce our footprint to a level that is sustainable.

The report also covers our footprint growth in the last 40 odd years. In 1961 our Global Ecological Footprint was 4.5 and the planets capacity was 9.0 (global hectares), in 2003 our footprint was 14.1, capacity 11.2. Under the 3 different scenarios to fix the problem by 2050 with “business as usual” the footprint would be 23 to a capacity of 11, “slow shift” a footprint of 16 compared to capacity of 13, and “rapid reduction” a footprint of 12 to a capacity of 13. Very scary!

What can we do?

Al Gore provides us some great tips on his Climate Crisis site, including a carbon calculator which unfortunately only cover the US. But his 10 tips are great really simple to implement and should be your first step. Sign up at show your support. You can also listen to Treading Lightly a podcast about the environment.

So back to the question what am I doing, me personally and my family?

  • We only own 1 car, and that one is powered by LPG
  • We recycle
  • We have 100% green power, again
  • We walk instead of driving when we can
  • We catch public transport to work, I am looking to ride to work as well
  • We live in a townhouse with no unnecessary garden to water
  • We only use vinegar, ammonia and bi-carb soda to clean the house with, exception being the dishwasher
  • We have a low water usage front loader washing machine
  • We eat as much organically grown produce as possible, we have a box delivered once a week. We have also been reducing the amount of red meat we eat.
  • We have signed up at

Now what do you do?