Do 3D Printers Cause Cancer?

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The Big C

No one likes to hear the word cancer even though the 1960s were filled with public service announcements saying cancer can be beaten. Cancer comes in many forms and it is very difficult to point to a specific cause.

Now 3D printers are being accused of being cancer producing agents overshadowing all the good these devices can provide. Don’t be afraid, your use of the 3D printer may be too limited to suffer any harmful effects especially if you work in a well ventilated area.

To learn more about cancer and 3D printers, just continue to read our article. It strives to set you straight on the issue so you can enjoy these devices without fear.

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Science takes a look at different 3D printers

Scientific studies have been done ever since 2013 when a student complained to his or her science teacher about the fumes from the 3D printer in his or her office. This was at Illinois Institute of Technology and since then more studies have been conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology and UL Chemical Safety.

The results of these studies have shown that the inferior models of 3D printers do in  fact pollute the indoor air with different sized particles resulting from the different types of filaments used.

One of the problems that has surfaced is the lack of particle oversight by government agencies. The manufacturers have a lot of freedom in how to make their specific 3D printers and ethical observance being what it is, many manufacturers find the cheapest materials, etc., and produce many low quality 3D printers that fill the air with those harmful particles.

Indirectly, 3D printers may produce dangerous elements that may cause cancer. But all hope is not lost and 3D printing should not be shelved or avoided….just yet.

What steps you can take to protect yourself and your family

In spite of the apparent danger, there are still steps you can take to avoid breathing in those harmful particles. Here are those steps:

 1.Buy non toxic filamentYou do have a choice here and looking for top quality filament that contains no toxic or harmful ingredients is available
 2.Buy filament that needs lower temperatures to meltThe higher the temperature to melt the filament the more particles are sent into the air. ABS is bad for this
 3.Ventilate your working areaThis cannot be emphasized enough. Make sure your printing room is has exhaust and other fans or windows that allow good airflow
 4.Keep your distanceWhen the machine is printing move back away from the device to avoid breathing in those particles
5.Wear a face maskIf you are in the printing room, wear a face mask to avoid breathing in those particles
 6.Have an enclosed printing bedThis helps contain those particles and stops them before they hit the air. A good filtration system will help as well
 7.Wear glovesThose airborne particles also stay in the area of the printer and can get on your hands if you are not careful. Wearing gloves will keep those particles from being absorbed through your skin
 8.Buy a higher quality 3D printer The better the quality the safer the 3D printer

The different hazards that come with 3D printing

While 3D printing is seen as a manufacturing marvel, there is always a dark side to the coin which many people rather not think about. Here are some of those hazards that come with using 3D printing

  1. When inhaled these particles create cardiovascular issues
  2. The particles can trigger or create asthma problems
  3. When absorbed into the body different toxins can get into the bloodstream and be spread throughout your body
  4. compounds like benzene and methylene chloride  are a part of 3D printing and it has been suggested that these are cancer causing agents
  5. Low cost or inferior printers produce more dangerous particles and chemicals than better made and more expensive models
  6. ABS creates a majority of particles over PLA but the latter is not toxic material free
  7. As the printer gets used the wear and tear helps it create more of these particles
  8. Prints are very porous allowing bacteria to grow in tiny difficult to reach spots. This is even more dangerous when you print eating utensils and dishes
  9. Printing food items also have the same bacterial problem as food utensils
  10. High water temperatures, e.g. dishwasher, can melt or distort the food utensils but washing in cooler water can leave bacteria and other germs in place

There is the other side of the coin

So far all that has been mentioned is the bad side of 3D printing and its relationship to cancer and other germs. But there is a good side to this cancer 3D relationship that may leave you feeling good and more positive about using a 3D printer.

  1. Improved cancer training- 3D printers can produce models of cancerous organs, etc., so the surgeon can hone his skill and be better when surgery to remove those cells are warranted
  2. Improved investigation- with those same models, different doctors can explore the organs to be better able to find cancer cells in your body. Better search methods and early discovery leads to earlier treatment and a higher possibility of survival
  3. Better removal possibilities- with the help of 3D prints doctors can remove those cancer cells without infecting other internal body parts or damaging them during surgery, like nerve clusters
  4. Guide cancer treatment- some models can be used to help doctors see the flow of the treatment and make changes if necessary so the patient gets better results

Some final words

While there may be a link between 3D printing and rise in cancer diagnosis, we do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Taking the right steps lets you enjoy 3D printing and receive some of the medical benefits that are associated with that option.

Nothing in this world will be without a downside so don’t let the downside in 3D printing stop you from using it.

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