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The Health Hazards of 3D Printing


mvdveer

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I am posting this with my medical hat on, not my 3d printing hat 🙂 Just a caution to all of us to take all possible precautions to protect our health when enjoying this great hobby.

Came across an interesting article, highlighting the importance of good ventilation for your 3d Printers to minimise potential health hazards. 

Some interesting snippets from the research.

Those interested in speed demons:

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What’s more, increasing 3D printing speed was found to significantly increase particle emissions from ABS, whereas “no significant association was found with PLA.”  

More concerning is the following finding:

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The study found that high doses of ABS 3D printing fumes resulted in a 49.5% decline in lung cell viability.

And it is not only the smell of ABS we need to be concerned about:

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Ultimately, ABS was found to possess higher toxicity than PLA. 

Seems PLA is the safest option:

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ABS and HIPS materias were highlighted as posing the most concern in terms of both particle and VOC exposure. Nylon presented high particle and caprolactam exposure, whilst ASA was found to emit substantial amounts of hazardous VOCs. The researchers found that PLA showed generally low VOC and particle emissions, despite some outliers. 

And in the color debate:

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For ABS, filament color was found to be an important variable for particle emissions. Black colored filament tended to be a lower emitting material, while all other colors possessed positive coefficients. 

Let's all take care and stay healthy.

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Thanks for sharing. I thought 3d printing can't be worse than living in a big city with air pollution.

But a decrease of 49.5% in lung viability (not sure what this exactly means) And DNA damage, oxidative stress,  suggests 3d printing fumes can be the cause of bronchospastic diseases such as asthma, but also can cause lung cancer ( and apparently other sorts of cancer wherever it changes DNA).

More reason to build a very closed enclosure with an exhaust that is connected to outside air.

More reason to change the charcoal in the nevermore every two weeks...

Any other precautions except taking on another hobby doc?

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1 hour ago, Dirk said:

But a decrease of 49.5% in lung viability

Basically decreases lung function by about half - due to small particle deposits in the lung. Think of it as the silicosis of 3d printing.

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Thanks so much for sharing this article. It is an important topic, and one that is almost completely ignored by the YouTube 3D printing gurus. Nero3D worked in the plastic-injection molding industry, and he said that he breathed 1000 times more ABS fumes from that job than from any 3D printer. However, he also said not to necessarily ignore the problem. A Voron (or any other enclosed 3D printer), if constructed properly, will contain most of the fumes and particulates IF you do not open the printer enclosure until the print is finished and cooled, which is what you should be doing anyway with ABS. 

Unless I am printing a very small part, I never print ABS without some form of ventilation. It is nasty stuff and if you look carefully at the plastic stream when you are purging the nozzle, you can actually see the fumes and particulates come off the filament as it exits the nozzle. My experience with high-quality PLA is almost no smell. I have also printed TPU and PETG, and there is absolutely no smell with those. To be fair, lack of smell does not always indicate safe - some chemicals have what is called "poor warning", that is, they can be dangerous without smelling bad. For sure, ABS does not pass the smell test - it is nasty and the smell really gives it away.

As with any project, woodworking, welding, painting and finishing, adequate ventilation and protection from VOC's and particulates are important. To say how much more hazardous 3D printing is than these other things is still not totally known and there are a lot of variables that determine the amount of hazard. Even the article states that there is a large variation based upon circumstances: "Altering 3D printer and filament conditions created large variations in emission levels. Interestingly, particle emissions were found to be more sensitive to 3D printing conditions than VOC emissions."

Some common sense things: Don't use your printer in your bedroom or living room - choose non-living spaces, such as basement or garage. Don't sit in front of your printer while it is printing - go do something else away from the printer. Use proper, air-tight enclosures for printing ABS and materials that emit large amounts of VOC's and particulates. Provide adequate ventilation, and use respiratory equipment if needed when working around the printer. 

I think with a little caution and common sense, we can enjoy ourselves without being neither complacent, nor over-concerned about health as safety of the hobby.

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Qickly searched where "decreases lung function by about half" does come from.

Seems to come from a in vitro study... Far from lung physiology. There's a long way from upper respiratory airways to pneumocytes. Not even speaking of the presence of mucus and microvilous epythelial cells.

The article was written by Alex Tyrer-Jones, a "technology journalist at 3D printing industry who enjoys researching and writing articles covering a wide variety of topics", with background in history of war... In other words a hobbyist.

Edited by YaaJ
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Hi.

I thought I'd add my two cents here based on my experience this year with my health issues.

This is a long read, and I'm sorry it's extensive, but if folks are interested in reading about my journey with breathing issues and what my docs said about 3D printing, it's here in my journey through 2023.

I started 3D printing in May of 2022 with a regular bedslinger, then in August I built a Voron 2.4r2 and really enjoyed the build and process. The 2.4 has an enclosure, and I also included the Nevermore carbon filter inside the cabinet as well. The printer is in my garage and I have a large commercial air filter than I run sometimes as well.

I started with PLA, and moved to ABS and almost exclusively used ABS. In December I printed almost 100 kit cards of a customized gingerbread house that my wife and I mailed with our Christmas cards. Printing 4up it took many days and I just used ABS for that, without an enclosure. I didn't spend much time in the garage while printing these.

Come mid-December I developed a cough that I attributed to a common cold. By mid-January the cough persisted and my primary doc said to try Flonase. After a couple more weeks I visited an ENT who did a camera scope thing down my throat to look at what was going on. He said it was post nasal drip and prescribed sinus rinses, which cleared up my sinuses in just a couple days (side note- I was kind of afraid to squirt water in my nose with a bottle, but it turned out for me to be no big deal whatsoever and didn't feel weird or anything. I just did them in the shower). My sinuses cleared up but the cough persisted.

By May the coughing was so severe it also came with chest congestion, which affected my ability to get oxygen into my blood and my O2 levels were slowly dropping. In mid-May I was hospitalized due to shortness of breath. They did a chest CT scan and determined I was suffering from acute bronchitis. After doses of albuteral (inhaled steroid) and steroid in pill form, and a couple days in the hospital I felt better and went home. I was on a steroid dose and taper for a couple weeks.

I thought "ok they fixed me up" and felt better. But after weaning off the steroids a couple weeks passed and things started to get bad again. I was then referred to a pulmonologist who did a bunch of tests and couldn't figure out what was going on, other than the fact that I had very high counts of white blood cells which can be caused by a number of things. Also, the CT scan showed enlarged lymph nodes in my chest, which was also concerning.

She initially was leaning towards ABPA or EGPA but I have no family history of asthma, and never had asthma related issues before. A couple more months pass of coughing, shortness of breath, inhalers, nebulizers, and generally trying to keep myself from running out of breath.

Around this time I asked the pulmonologist about 3D printing (since she asked about anything new recently) and she didn't have enough information to make an informed decision. Dr. Google found various articles, including the one mentioned in this thread, and I read all of them. She also asked around and couldn't find what she called "valid, medically sound advice" on the topic. So she suggested (frown face here) that I stop 3D printing altogether for 3 months to see if it makes any difference.

Considering we've been trying all sorts of things (fixed some leaky plumbing in the house which may have caused mold, gotten our house professionally tested for mold, added more air filters throughout the house, got a vapor barrier installed in the crawl space to isolate the ground from the house, etc.) I thought pausing my printing hobby would be OK to see if it helped.

On Sept. 1st I woke up barely able to breath, and my wife called an ambulance for yet another hospital visit. This time I was put on a "powerful cpap machine" called a bipap for two hours to get my O2 back up. I was getting readings at home under 90, closer to 87ish so I was struggling.

In mid-September I did a procedure called an EBUS, which is where they put me under and use a tiny ultrasound scope on the end of an endoscope and guide it close to my lymph nodes in my chest, where they extract tissue samples with a needle. These samples showed normal lymph node cells and no cancer or other "bad things" so that was a big relief.

After 3 more days I was put back on prednisone, a steroid, and went home. To this day I am still on the prednisone but on a lower dose, and it's been determined that I have "idiopathic HES" which is basically saying I have a hyper eosinophil count for an unknown cause. My E cell counts are always high except while taking steroids, which has been keeping them in check. In November, I started 3D printing again since it didn't make any difference in my status.

After 38 doctors and numerous doc/urgent care/hospital visits I'm still struggling and working through things, and have started a new biologic drug called Nucala, which targets eosinophil cells specifically and will hopefully help me wane off the steroids. Each time I saw a new pulmonologist I would always ask if they had any information on 3D printing, and they  all gave me the same response, which made me feel better about the hobby. They all said that the CT scans (I've had 3 now) do not show any lung "scarring" which would occur if I had foreign particles like ABS in my lungs. Also, all the tests of various expellents (sputum) didn't show any plastic residue, which they said would show up.

This made me feel like my condition is not caused by 3D printing, so I hope that info helps those who might be concerned. I know that ABS produces "micro particles" that can be breathed in, so using air filters and enclosures is still a must in my book, and should be for anyone printing ABS. If you can "smell" anything I feel like that's a bad thing, like a fish smell from something you bought at the supermarket -- you shouldn't smell anything in my book. The air filter should process any ABS gasses and hopefully contain it in the carbon filter material.

On a side note, my third CT scan in November showed my lymph nodes were returning back to normal, which was also good news.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for hearing my story and I hope this was at the very least interesting to some.

Dennis

 

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This is something I worry about, I designed and printed a carbon and hepa filter that sits in the back of my DIY enclosure. Its got a large usb powered PC fan on it thats hooked up to the pi that runs octoprint so it comes on when i switch that on. It pulls the air through a cyllinder hepa filter and a carbon pad. it did a great job when i was printing in ABS with keeping the smell down. I also close the door and dont stay in the room while a print is on. I print mostly with PLA but its still good to have a filter on anyway.

Edited by Faenum
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I am the sorta redneck that couldn’t care less about health hazards, safety or any of it. 😂 I print with all my printers on a work bench in my room. I work on my suburban in any condition that may present the requirement, from the mud to rock trails. 
 

I will be happy to inform you all in days, months or years the effects ABS and ASA have had on my lungs and respiratory system. 👍🏻 Stop your worrying and get on with life. 

image000000.jpeg

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19 hours ago, ArkansasFPV said:

I am the sorta redneck...

 

As a European, I have no idea what a redneck is, but I assume you mean someone like the US senators that declared that they believe smoking is not addictive? back in 1994? 

Of course anyone can do whatever he/she wishes to do.

Like you, anyone else can have his/her opinion and express it. However it is not the same as presenting facts of scientific research, like @mvdveer does in this post. 

At its simplest, the results of research is per definition objective, while an opinion is subjective. Which should give a suggestion of which one is more applicable to the general population.

I as a simple individual think the information presented here is very valuable and motivates me to add some protective measures to my printer (exhaust, carbon filters) while I will also make sure my children will not be exposed to the fumes produced during printing by taking some other simple extra measures. I do not believe I will loose much while doing so.

There is no need to worry, when you do things safely.

 

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2 hours ago, Dirk said:

As a European, I have no idea what a redneck is, but I assume you mean someone like the US senators that declared that they believe smoking is not addictive? back in 1994? 

Of course anyone can do whatever he/she wishes to do.

Like you, anyone else can have his/her opinion and express it. However it is not the same as presenting facts of scientific research, like @mvdveer does in this post. 

At its simplest, the results of research is per definition objective, while an opinion is subjective. Which should give a suggestion of which one is more applicable to the general population.

I as a simple individual think the information presented here is very valuable and motivates me to add some protective measures to my printer (exhaust, carbon filters) while I will also make sure my children will not be exposed to the fumes produced during printing by taking some other simple extra measures. I do not believe I will loose much while doing so.

There is no need to worry, when you do things safely.

Some may find a redneck uncouth, uneducated and just plain repulsive.
 

We are closer to the farmers that won the revolutionary war. Strong willed, independent and extremely patriotic(God Guns Country). 🇺🇸 
 

I have come to see most people in this hobby are Fat, have Cats and whine a lot. I am quite fit, have Great Danes and my kids do the whining. 😂 
 

I hold a great disdain for grown whiners and cats. 😂 

imagejpeg_0.jpeg

Edited by ArkansasFPV
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Good info, but many of the ABS studies are on industrial ABS mold injection and 3D printing. Our printers don't get anywhere near those volumes.

Additionally most Vorons are enclosed and there are multiple ways to filter them. Which I do. Both carbon and HEPA. So solutions are available.

 

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39 minutes ago, z00mantwo said:

..many of the ABS studies are on industrial ABS mold injection and 3D printing. Our printers don't get anywhere near those volumes...

I also think this is a good post on this forum that attends us to something that nobody else mentions. The subject is trivialized. And by the reactions to this post, I see that many think it is exaggerated.

You are the second mentioning industrial environments. I checked the article that is referred to. This research is very clearly targeted at printers "in manufacturing and consumer settings. Their use in non-industrial environments such as offices, libraries, homes, and educational spaces" The study uses "14 different printers from 6 unique manufacturers". 
Unfortunately the manufacturers and the printers are not named, but I have to assume they are for manufacturing/consumer use, since that is the question in the introduction.

When this is the case, and when you see the described results, I see it as quite a serious problem, with most of the particles released being known to cause health issues, starting from simple bronchospastic reactions to cancer. Not only in the airways but all over the body. Quite similar to the effects of smoking.

So trivializing it is a huge mistake in my humble opinion.

And as I said before, I do not discourage anyone to stop enjoying 3D printing. On the contrary. But taking the precautions that are already built in by design, such as the filters, exhaust and other simple things like using an enclosed printer, opening the doors after things have cooled down would be a smart thing to do.

But then again, instead of trivializing the problem, I think taking precautions should be emphasized.

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59 minutes ago, z00mantwo said:

I really good filter option is:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:5683138

The filters used have both carbon and HEPA in them. It's what I have on my 350mm 2.4

@z00mantwo I have been wondering if the nevermore I use, really does anything except removing the ABS fumes. I like the motivation the designer wrote over there. Thanks for the link!

I hope such measures will become standard in Voron builds. Any of the admins / mods have a way to reach them? I just checked vorondesign.com and there is no contact or future requests button 🙂 

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Back on topic: I think people should view filtration systems with a spoonful of salt. Unless you understand Air change rates, particulate sizes, filter porosity sizes, statistics, engineering, etc.  Filters may work for a time and then clog, activated carbon gets used up quickly even when you’re not using it.  I lean a lot more heavily on ventilation. I have an exhaust fan going outside, connected to my enclosed Voron.   Maintain negative pressure in your enclosure. 
 

also, if you’re really anal, you have to think about all the particles that are sitting around in your enclosure when you open it up.  How do you avoid disturbing and ingesting those? How do you clean them up?  

 

 

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5 hours ago, Beez1965 said:

Filters may work for a time and then clog, activated carbon gets used up quickly even when you’re not using it

Thanks for this addition. A good reminder. So, like it says on the nevermind: change the filters once in a few weeks? 

After the post from @z00mantwo I have done a simple ' filter & hepa & voron' search and it turns up quite a few add-ons. People are aware and care... There are also some good solutions with cheap hepa filters that I use in my vacuming robot 🙂  

 

 

5 hours ago, Beez1965 said:

 I lean a lot more heavily on ventilation. I have an exhaust fan going outside, connected to my enclosed Voron.   Maintain negative pressure in your enclosure. 

Thank you for the addition. This is indeed a proven concept, which I know is being used since the centuries (I know it was advised during the Tuberculosis endemics in Europe in the 1800s). Negative pressure is also something maintained in huge warehouses where food is kept. 

 

 

 

5 hours ago, Beez1965 said:

if you’re really anal....

And I think, this is the place where I say: there is no need to exaggerate. Just simple, doable cheap precautions for a hobby should be enough 😄

 

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