Kevin O’Neill1, Xinyi Niu2, Jun Wang  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1,2, Runcheng Fang2 

1 Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Hudson College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73104, USA
2 Department of Environmental and Public Health Science, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267, USA

Received: February 1, 2024
Revised: June 6, 2024
Accepted: June 10, 2024

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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O’Neill, K., Niu, X., Wang, J., Fang, R. (2024). Respirable Particles and Gas Contaminants Emissions from a Desktop Laser Cutter and Engraver. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 24, 240032.


  • Air contaminants produced by laser cutting have potential adverse health effects.
  • Operating parameters such as laser power impact particulate and gaseous emission.
  • Cardboard produced notably high levels of respirable and ultrafine particles (< 100 nm).
  • Materials with higher carbon content generated elevated TVOCs and CO.
  • Effective ventilation reduces particles and eliminates gaseous contaminants.


Airborne contaminants produced during the laser cutting processes are hazardous substances produced as byproducts during laser cutting or engraving operations. These contaminants include respirable particulates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other toxic substances that pose health risks to humans. As desktop laser cutting/engraving technology gains popularity, addressing the potential health hazards associated with airborne contaminants is critical. This study aimed to evaluate the concentrations of respirable particles, sub-half-micron particles, VOCs, and carbon monoxide (CO) that are emitted during laser cutting or engraving processes. The experimental matrix consisted of four materials (cardboard, wood, plastic, and glass) and three currents (10 amp, 15 amp, 20 amp), while also assessing the efficiency of exhaust ventilation. The results showed that the interaction of materials, currents, and ventilation significantly influenced emission concentrations of respirable particulate matter. Cardboard consistently exhibited the highest concentration of respirable particulate matter of 253.9 ± 47.6 mg m3 and an average emission rate of sub-half-micron particles of 5.8 × 1010 # min–1, characterized by the smallest geometric mean diameter of 53 nm in the absence of ventilation. The extremely high emission highlighted the potential of ultrafine particle exposures and health risks from cutting cardboard. Conversely, glass demonstrated excellent resilience to thermal cutting, resulting in lower particle emissions. Wood and plastic materials showed intermediate levels of respirable and ultrafine particle production compared to cardboard and glass. Materials with higher carbon content, such as wood and cardboard, generated higher levels of VOCs and CO, compared to plastic (high VOC but no CO emissions) and glass (no VOC nor CO emission). Additionally, implementing ventilation control during laser cutting or engraving processes is highly recommended, as it effectively reduces the emissions of respirable particles and completely removes gaseous contaminants.

Keywords: Respirable particles, Gas Contaminants, Volatile organic compounds, Desktop laser cutter, Laser engraving

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