Are 3D Printers Toxic?

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The world has seen an upsurge in the demand and popularity of 3D printers over the last couple of years. As a result, these machines are now a common device in homes, offices, laboratories, and shops. However, there’s been talk among researchers that 3D printers can harm your health in the long-run.

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If this is something that you might want to know before buying a 3D printer, you’re in luck. This comprehensive guide goes through discussing whether 3D printers are safe for your health. You also get to learn about the safety tips to observe to safeguard your overall well being. Therefore, don’t move a muscle, and let’s dive straight in.

Do 3D Printers Expose You To Adverse Health Effects? 

3D printers work by melting plastic filaments and depositing this solution one layer over another to create a custom object. This heating causes the production of toxic compounds released into the air close to the object and the printer. Therefore, you’re most likely to inhale these dangerous fumes when operating your 3D printer.   

According to one study conducted by experts at the Georgia Institute of Technology, consumer-grade 3D printers might produce harmful toxins that might affect your respiratory health. This was after these researchers collected the particles generated by the 3D printer. They went ahead to conduct tests to assess what may impact the human respiratory cell cultures, with these tests being conducted at high doses.

Consequently, it was realized that the human body suffers a certain level of toxic response, with this amount varying depending on the kind of filament used by the 3D printers. This led the researchers to closely inspect the particles ‘chemical composition to determine the possible toxicity level.

The amount of emissions produced by your 3D printer varies depending on the temperature level needed when melting a filament. Usually, more toxic emissions are produced when the temperature levels are higher. 

This means that ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic filaments generate more dangerous fumes since they need higher temperatures to melt than PLA (polylactic acid) with a lower melting point.

These researchers went ahead and tested the effects of these fumes on rate immune system cells and human respiratory cells to the particle concentration produced by 3D printers. The outcome was these tests don’t reveal actual exposures, with both PLA and ABS affecting the cells adversely.

The emission tests also revealed that on per-particle compassion, PLA particles are more dangerous than ABS particles. Nonetheless, the 3D printers generate a large volume of the ABS emissions, and as a result, making it even a greater cause of concern. 

When you consider these tests together, prolonged exposure to these toxic fumes could be as dangerous as the polluted air in urban environments caused by a car or other emissions.

During this study, it was also discovered that the ABS particles your 3D printer produces have chemical traits that differ from the ABS filament. This usually happens because filament companies might add to a specific kind of filament other compounds in small mass percentages to attain particular attributes. However, this information remains confidential since these additives might alter the quantity of ABS emissions.

As a result, this leads to a big difference in the amount of type of additives added to the ABS. This means you might buy a particular type of ABS filament, which might generate greater emissions than one sold by another seller.

During this study, another discovery was the indoor environmental situation that would be most affected by fumes produced by the 3D printer. It was projected that using a 3D printer in a well-ventilated commercial building environment such as an office or school would reduce the exposure to these toxic fumes. Nonetheless, this usually isn’t the case in a standard residential setting characterized by poor ventilation, meaning greater exposure.

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Safety Tips To Observe When Using A 3D Printer. 

It’s now clear that exposure to the toxic emissions produced by 3D printers for a prolonged period will eventually affect your health. You thus need to put in place suitable health safety measures to safeguard yourself from harm. Here are some of the health and safety tips you need to observe;

Avoid Drinking And Eating In The Room

When using a 3D printer, you must never drink, eat, or chew gum in the same room. You also should clean your hands always after using the 3D printer. Furthermore, it’s advised to avoid applying cosmetics or handling contact lenses while in this room since this exposes you to the possible harm of the toxic fumes.

Ensure Proper Ventilation of The Rooms

When using your 3D printer, it produces a certain quantity of vapors into the room if the filament is either ABS or PLA. Because of this, you need to ensure the room is adequately ventilated or else risk inhaling these toxic emissions. Exposure to these fumes for a long duration leads to issues such as headache, dizziness, and drowsiness, especially if you’re a frequent user of your 3D printer.

Always Supervise Young Persons Using the 3D Printer.

The use of 3D printers exposes humans to many adverse side effects. Therefore, 3D printers must always be used under the supervision of an adult well-versed with this technology. If this isn’t done, young individuals are exposed to hazardous conditions or even the possibility of an accident.

Ensure A Proper Working Environment

You need to make sure that the environment the 3D printer is being used is clean and doesn’t have any clutter. It also shouldn’t have any gases or dust which can affect your health. Moreover, make sure to observe the ideal temperature setting when using your 3D printer, ideally between 10 to 45 degrees Celsius.  

Bottom Line 

3D printers are, without a doubt, a useful innovation that has proved to be very useful across different industries. With that said, these machines still have a negative impact in that they affect your overall health since they generate toxic fumes during use. 

Because of this, it’s essential to observe proper health and safety precautions, as discussed above, due to the toxicity of this equipment. By carefully following this, you can confidently go ahead and use your 3D printer, knowing that your health is protected.

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