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Until now, the adverse effects of toner powders on humans have been considered to be minimal. However, several recent reports have suggested possible significant adverse health effects from toner dust inhalation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the genotoxic potential of black toner powders in vitro. For the study of DNA damage, A549 cells were exposed to toner-powder suspensions and to their DMSO extracts, and then subjected to the comet assay and to the in-vitro cytokinesis block micronucleus test (CB-MNvit). Cytotoxic effects of the toner samples were assessed by the erythrosin B assay. Furthermore, size, shape, and composition of the toner powders were investigated. None of the three toner powders or their DMSO extracts reduced cell viability; however, they did induce DNA damage and formed micronuclei at concentrations from 80 to 400 μg cm−2, although to a varying extent. All toner powders contain considerable amounts of the pigments carbon black and magnetite (Fe3O4) as well as small amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The overall results of our in-vitro study suggest that the investigated toner-powder samples are not cytotoxic but genotoxic. From the results of the physical and chemical characterization, we conclude that metals and metalloids as components of magnetite, or PAHs as components of the carbon-bearing material, are responsible for the genotoxic effects. Further research is necessary to determine the relevance of these in-vitro observations for private and occupational toner powder exposure. Environ. Mol. Mutagen., 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.