My wife spent years as a classroom volunteer in our local elementary school. Her nickname was "Laura the Laminator" as that seemed to be her main function. So hopefully those fumes didn't do any damage (though who knows -- it might explain why, after 25 years of being married to yours truly, she's nearly as loopy as I am, after starting out so much saner).
I just did a quick google search and ran across this description of cold lamination -- no endorsement implied or otherwise, though it seems like one way around the issue. I'd hesitate to call it a "better" idea unless a lifecycle analysis pointed in that direction, or unless there were some good evidence for a health impact from breathing these fumes. But it is worth exploration.
According to the same site, the hot melt films (http://www.graphicproducts.com/laminators/hot-film.html) are polyester resin, with an adhesive inner liner.
there are also lamination films that still require heat, but bond at much lower temps, resulting in fewer fumes.
and of course, teachers could use less laminated materials -- but that would be like telling a fish to avoid water pollution by staying dry. It just ain't gonna happen.
Training the volunteers who do the lamination to do it efficiently -- batch-wise, minimizing wasted laminating materials, probably wouldn't be a bad idea, either. My wife is a quilter and hence has a great instinct for how to maximize the utilization of sheet goods (in her case, fabric) but not everyone is cursed....er, trained in that way.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of michelle gaither
Sent: Monday, October 09, 2006 11:24 AM
I am looking into this on behalf of 2 schools in Seattle.
Staff at schools LOVE to laminate.
When i go into the copy room, the laminator is always on. It reeks of heated plastic in the room.
Aside from the excess waste of plastic (the laminator I have seen uses a 30" wide roll of plastic no matter how big the paper is that you are laminating), I am trying to find out what chemicals might be released - phthalates? other plasticizers (e.g., lead is a common plasticizer in PVC- but i don't know if this is PVC plastic). and, how much energy is consumed by these clunkers.
If there are any P2 guidance documents (other than, DON'T USE) for laminators, that would be helpful too.