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Teachers beware: Ditto sheets, those old-fashioned, aromatic tools of the trade, may be hazardous to your health.

The American Federation of Teachers did some investigating of the purple-inked, machine-printed papers after receiving calls from teachers complaining of nausea and headaches after working with them. What the union found was alarming.

The fluid used in ditto machines may contain high levels of methanol, a volatile and potentially harmful alcohol that spreads quickly in the atmosphere, Darryl Alexander, the union's workplace-health and -safety director, said in a news advisory this month.

The methanol concentration in the fluids used ranged from 30 percent to 99 percent.

In some schools, the exposure levels may have exceeded workplace standards set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, though the agency does not have jurisdiction over public schools.

Exposure to high levels of methanol can lead to blurred vision, skin ailments, or more serious problems such as blindness.

Teachers who regularly use ditto machines may be at risk while making print-outs, Ms. Alexander added.

The union recommended that ditto machines be placed in areas with proper ventilation, and that teachers wait at least one day before collating and distributing materials printed on them.

The A.F.T. also recommended that schools try to replace the machines with more sophisticated equipment.

If Gov. John G. Rowland gets his way, teachers in Connecticut may have to pay to do their jobs.

The Governor's proposed budget would charge teachers an annual fee for the opportunity to work in the public schools. Lawyers, doctors, architects, and other professionals already pay to work in the state.

The state would charge fees ranging from $100 for beginning teachers to $300 for veterans. The plan could raise more than $10 million a year.

Some educators have criticized the proposal, arguing that teachers earn less than other professionals who pay such fees.

The proposal to deduct the fees from teachers' paychecks has been particularly unpopular.

The plan "is a payroll tax for public school teachers, and that is discriminatory and wrong," Robert Hiscox, the treasurer of the Connecticut Education Association, told the legislature.

State officials, however, claim the fees should not be a big sacrifice. Connecticut teachers have the highest salaries in the nation, averaging more than $49,000 in 1993-94.

--Joanna Richardson

Vol. 14, Issue 28

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