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3D Printers Shown To Emit Potentially Harmful Nanosized Particles 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the price-you-pay-for-having-a-plastic-version-of-your-own-head dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study by researchers in the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology shows that commercially available desktop 3D printers can have substantial emissions of potentially harmful nanosized particles in indoor air. Many desktop 3D printers rely on a process where a thermoplastic feedstock is heated, extruded through a small nozzle, and deposited onto a surface to build 3D objects. Similar processes have been shown to have significant aerosol emissions in other studies using a range of plastic feedstocks, but mostly in industrial environments. In this study, researchers measured ultrafine particle concentrations resulting from a popular commercially available desktop 3D printer using two different plastic feedstocks inside an office. Ultrafine particles (or UFPs) are small, nanosized particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Inhalation of UFPs may be important from a health perspective because they deposit efficiently in the lung and can even translocate to the brain. Estimates of emission rates of total UFPs in this study were high, ranging from about 20 billion particles per minute for a 3D printer utilizing a lower temperature polylactic acid (PLA) feedstock to about 200 billion particles per minute for the same type of 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) feedstock. The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette."
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3D Printers Shown To Emit Potentially Harmful Nanosized Particles

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:00PM (#44338543)

    The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      The amount of emissions might be similar... I would expect the composition of those emissions to be considerably different. How many plastics would there be getting cooked on a gas or electric stove, or in a scented candle? Probably not very many...

      • by lxs (131946)

        Soot is nasty stuff. I'd rather take my chances with PLA which degrades in the human body. It's the stuff they make self dissolving suture wire and bone screws out of.

  • by BSAtHome (455370) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:06PM (#44338565)

    When multiple options are available to mitigate the problem, then the most often used should be eliminated.

    Hear you all, stop cooking! You're potentially killing yourself from nano-particle emissions. Stop cooking, now, please.

    • by ndogg (158021) <the...rhorn@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 20, 2013 @08:49PM (#44339463) Homepage Journal

      The difference is that we don't know what these particular particles will do to our bodies yet, and this was something rather unanticipated with 3d printers. Ultimately more research needs to be done, and it may well turn out that these particles are harmless, but considering that we don't know much about their interactions with our biology, it's best to assume the worst until we know better.

      With cooking, candles, etc., we've been doing it for so long that we can probably safely assume that the resulting particles aren't causing any significant harm.

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Soot is known to cause lots of harm because it contains carcinogens and particulate carbon.

        There are several studies on the interaction of PLA particles with living tissue. PLA is a non-toxic, biocompatible, biodegradable polymer; it's almost certainly less harmful than soot.

        • What's the chance those studies were funded by the companies that sell PLA? Pretty decent I would say.

          • by lxs (131946)

            Before 3D printing came along PLA was used almost exclusively for surgical procedures...
            OMG Big Pharma is involved. We're all going to die!

      • It's well known that roasting and frying creates certain carcinogens. Like, say, in french fries [wikipedia.org]. Still I see rather few people going all hysteric about it and picketing fast food chains because they're selling poison to our children! Save the children!

        Just because something doesn't kill you instantly doesn't mean it's safe to do it. Actually, we know a lot MORE about how frying kills us indirectly than we do about how 3D printing harms us, so I guess we should stop frying right now and continue research on

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      From the summary this is only a side effect of gas and electric cooking. Everyone should switch to using open wood fireplaces. That'll stop the particles from gas and electric cooking from fouling our air.

      • by Sentrion (964745)

        Can't take the chance. Just going to eat my chicken raw, just like my ancestors did before they learned to cook with fire. I imagine they must have been much healthier then since their diet was more natural and not tainted with carcinogens. How many people have died from cancer through the eons that could have been prevented by staying away from smoke and fire?

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Can't take the chance. Just going to eat my chicken raw, just like my ancestors did before they learned to cook with fire. I imagine they must have been much healthier then since their diet was more natural and not tainted with carcinogens. How many people have died from cancer through the eons that could have been prevented by staying away from smoke and fire?

          "We'll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to NOT bang the rocks together, guys."

          Strat

      • My landlord and the fire department want to have a word with you concerning your great idea...

  • Panic inducing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:10PM (#44338593) Journal

    My guess is that we're going to find nanoparticles a VERY common part of our environment, and that just about any process that grinds or sprays is going to generate nanoparticles.

    Fortunately, considering that bacteria and viruses are ALSO nanoparticles, our bodies have evolved amazing defenses against them.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well their study has the PLA result to be 3x than what the baseline is, about. the abs result seems a bit funky, why that happens would be interesting. there's likely large differences between models though too, while in principle most 3d home printers have a same kind of extrusion setup.. it's not really so.

      • by pla (258480)
        well their study has the PLA result to be 3x than what the baseline is, about. the abs result seems a bit funky

        Well, y'know, I do keep myself in shape, but I wouldn't really call my abs anything to write home about...
    • by Exitar (809068)

      Bacteria and virus are biodegradable, plastic is not.

      • Nope, but usually quite inert.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Nope, but usually quite inert.

          HAHAHAHAA

          and also

          BAHAHAHAHAHHAHA

          Most plastics are the diametric opposite of inert. They can react with all kinds of things normally found in their environment. For example, literally all plastic bottles leach toxics into their contents, BPx-free or not, even if those contents are only water. And you happen to be mostly water.

          In addition, the smaller the particle, the more chance it has to do damage. Your cilia are good at sweeping large particles, like those from wood smoke, out of your lungs. They cannot d

          • by khallow (566160)

            They can react with all kinds of things normally found in their environment. For example, literally all plastic bottles leach toxics into their contents

            Leaching is not a reaction. And you neglect that dosage is a big part of what makes "toxics" toxic.

      • by lxs (131946)

        Not all plastics are alike. PLA is biodegradable. [wikipedia.org]

    • ... just about any process that grinds or sprays is going to generate nanoparticles.

      Hmm, must have a word with the wife

  • "Cooking on gas or electric stoves and electric toaster ovens was a major source of UFP, with peak personal exposures often exceeding 100,000 particles/cm and estimated emission rates in the neighborhood of 10 particles/min."

    So in other words, a toaster puts out 10x more UFPs. Nothing to see here folks.

    Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20087407 [nih.gov]

  • Right up there with frying food or scented candles. We'll get back to you on that, sure.

  • They need to be enclosed and have a ionized air filter...

    • by Sneftel (15416)

      I do that with all my scented candles.

    • Great idea, I'll print one right away.

      • Great idea, I'll print one right away.

        hahaha... you'd better hold your breath untill the build finishes :p

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:00PM (#44338853) Journal

    How do they compare to pollen? Are they full of spiky little projectiles that want to burrow into my nasal cavities and cross-polinate with my mucus membranes to create a giant mutant dandelion in my head? No? Then I'm not... ahh, ahhhhh, AH-CHOO!, sniff. worried.

  • by csumpi (2258986) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:04PM (#44338873)
    - burn your fingers
    - trip on the power cord
    - drop the printer on your big toe
    • - burn your fingers

      check

      - trip on the power cord

      check

      - drop the printer on your big toe

      not yet, but it has been half way off the table and just about ready too... If it did I'd be more woried about the printer: I can print a replacement foot with my printer, but no matter how much I try my foot refuses to make me even the simplest printing press.

  • by Rod Beauvex (832040) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:19PM (#44338997)
    3D printing shown to cause potentially harmful cuts into corporate profits.
  • Can they be made to place the UFP? I know they process is currently uncontrolled however a little engineering could make 3D printing even more interesting
  • Sure, it may put out the same amount of particles as more common things, but I imagine they're different types of particle. The site is dead so I can't check, but is there anything said about the relative dangers of one particle compared to another? I'm sure, for example, nanoparticles of plastics are much more hazardous than nanoparticles of burnt toast.

  • Another lot of "Researchers" wanting to use scare tactics to get funding.

    "Additionally, more controlled experiments should be conducted...."

    I like to see the testing results in a wood shop or metal shop. Let them measure nano particle emissions when using spray cans or how about a simple inkjet printer?
    Suddenly the world is full of "Harmful" nano particles. Scary things you can't see or prove easily always good for a good scare.

    We need a nano tax to stop the inhuman crime of nano particle emission. I want t

    • by plover (150551)

      I want to see Greenpest protesting against nano pollution. Get your banners out morons.

      Yes, that's it! They should wave microscopic banners protesting the nanoparticles! We could use a bunch of protestors as a sort of Maxwell's Demon, to use their tiny signs to bat away the bad nanoparticles while admitting the good natural nanoparticles.

  • So I cook and own a laser printer. I'm screwed. But last printer is another room, door closed.
  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    melting plastic results in fumes, gee go figure, glad we wasted our collective tax money on yet another "NO FUCKING SHIT" study

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:05PM (#44339533) Homepage Journal

    For regulation, and then restriction.

  • by pla (258480)
    Oh... My... Gawd!

    I use a gas or electric stove on a nightly basis! Some nights I even *sobs* barbecue!

    Wow. So these things make slightly less nanoscale dust than most 2D printers (which, inkjet or laser, make dusting your bookshelf look practically good for you). Call me when the liberal media stops trying to spread FUD about "gun printers".
  • by GrpA (691294) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:50PM (#44339717)

    Yes, smoke sometimes curls from the printhead. No surprises there. Usually, there's not much, but hey, ABS chemicals aren't exactly a health-product.

    What I would have liked to have known though is whether the use of covers ( eg, stabilising temperature and keeping the workpiece enclosed ) make any difference.

    There is actually benefit to using covered printers, so it wouldn't be that difficult to add some filters to them would it? It's an entirely practical approach too, since plastic fumes are always worth avoiding.

    And the use of less emotive terms for smoke would have been nano-appreciated.

    GrpA

    • There is actually benefit to using covered printers

      FWIW, in the old days of dot-matrix printers, sound covers were common for big printers in offices. Interesting that we would make covers for a product that emits a bit of bothersome noise, but not for one that emits airborne particles.

  • Above poster suggests study should have included mitigation effect of enclosures.
    It would be interesting if an OSHA, CDC or other regulation/law could require enclosures, and invalidate the patent some company IIRC holds on them for public health reasons.

  • "The emission rates were similar to those measured in previous studies of several other devices and indoor activities, including cooking on a gas or electric stove, burning scented candles, operating laser printers, or even burning a cigarette."
  • Does this sound suspiciously to anyone else like, say, 'moving'?
  • It's the same as other shit we do every single day of our lives. Why is this written as a DOOM! story???

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