Is 3D Printing Safe

​​A new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) explores the potentially harmful emissions from 3D printing.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Release No. SPR-17-0523-01

CONTACT:
Gabriella Lehimdjian, AIHA Communications
(703) 846-0700; glehimdjian@aiha.org

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (May 23, 2017) — The decreased price of and increased interest in 3D printers have led to questions about the safety and potential health effects of using these devices. New research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) has found that common filaments used in 3D printers can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the printing process. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, excessive exposure to VOCs can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; and nausea.

Authors Szymon Wojtyła, Piotr Klama, and Tomasz Baran tested the fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printing process, the most common process found in commercial 3D printers. FDM devices work by heating filaments at various temperatures. The authors found that four common filaments—acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and nylon—emit VOCs even at temperatures below the printing temperature. 

One way to control VOC emissions from 3D printers is through photocatalytic filters, which use ultraviolet light to limit exposures. The authors add that good practice for using 3D printers includes good ventilation. While printing in a large, well-ventilated room is not a threat to the user, the use of a 3D printer in a room with poor ventilation could lead to a hazardous increase of VOCs in the air. 

For more information, read the full study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Please contact Mark Nicas, PhD, CIH, Editor-in-Chief of JOEH, at mnicas@berkeley.edu with any comments.

ATTRIBUTION TO THE JOURNAL OF OCCUPATIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL HYGIENE IS REQUESTED IN ALL NEWS COVERAGE.

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JOEH is published jointly by the American Industrial Hygiene Association® (AIHA) and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®). JOEH enhances the knowledge and practice of occupational and environmental hygiene and safety. It provides a written medium for the communication of ideas, methods, processes, and research in the areas of occupational, industrial, and environmental hygiene; exposure assessment; engineering controls; occupational and environmental epidemiology, medicine, and toxicology; ergonomics; and other related disciplines.