Safety Hazards Associated with 3D Printers

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Today’s 3D printers have the capability of printing everything from jewelry and musical instruments to artificial limbs and other medical devices. The technology is groundbreaking, and the applications are endless. However, employees who work with 3D printers may be exposed to hazardous material that can cause a range of serious health issues. Unfortunately, people generally focus only on the benefits of this technology and fail to discuss the potential downsides. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is partnering with the nonprofit organization, America Makes, to improve workplace safety in 3D printing.

3D Printers Release Ultrafine Particles and Volatile Organic Compounds

According to multiple scientific studies, 3D printers release ultrafine particles (UFP) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) during the printing process. UFPs are tiny particles that are released into the air during printing. When they are breathed in, they can cause serious damage to the lungs. In addition, they can cause cardiovascular health risks, increase the risk of asthma, and deliver dangerous toxins into the bloodstream. VOCs are released as a gas by products like paint, varnishes, and cleaning products. Like UFPs, they can cause serious health issues when inhaled, including certain types of cancer.

3D printers generate the object they are creating by melting certain types of plastic filaments and adding multiple layers of printing material on top of each other. Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA) are examples of common filaments used. Studies show the following findings regarding 3D printers and the production of ABS and PLA filaments:

  • ABS and PLAs were found in the vicinity of 3D printers.
  • Higher levels of UFPs and VOCs were produced by low-cost printers compared to more expensive models.
  • While ABS filaments produce more particulate emissions than PLA, they both produce amounts that can cause health issues.
  • The more wear and tear associated with a 3D printer, the more UFPs and VOCs it releases.

Protecting Workers from Harmful Fumes

Employers can reduce workers’ exposure to these harmful chemicals by providing the following:

  • 3D printer fume extraction: This regulates the air after harmful particles are released from the 3D printer. The filtration system protects the operator from hazardous fumes and maintains the integrity of the machine.
  • 3D printer enclosure: This uses HEPA filters and a powerful fan to eliminate fumes and particulate. It can also reduce certain odors and noise that the printer makes.

According to the NIOSH Director, the agency looks forward to a collaborative and creative partnership with America Makes. The agency plans to work with members of the industry, academia, and government to invest in manufacturing innovations that strengthen the manufacturing business while ensuring that all workers are safe.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Workers Exposed to Hazardous Chemicals from 3D Printers

If you work with 3D printers and were exposed to hazardous chemicals, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits you deserve. We will protect your rights and address all your questions and concerns along the way. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.