3D Printing and Worker Exposures to Airborne Pollutants
The American Board of Industrial Hygiene® (ABIH®) reminds workers and industry of the need to protect employees from respirable hazards.
Lansing, MI -- Three-dimensional (3D) printers are becoming increasingly popular as the technology advances and costs decrease. Today, 3D printers can be found everywhere, from research laboratories in schools, universities and businesses to factory floors and even in some people’s homes.
As these devices become more common, concerns have been raised about chemicals (volatile organic compounds/VOCs), particulate matter and nanoparticles that are emitted during their use. In fact, earlier this year, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) published a new study entitled Is 3D Printing Safe?
A news release published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) about the study revealed that the authors found that four common filaments: acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and nylon all emit VOCs even at temperatures below the printing temperature. To protect people from exposure to these VOCs, the same news release suggested, “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.”
“Businesses, government agencies, universities and other institutions that use 3D printers need to be aware that this technology could expose people to respiratory problems if the proper safety precautions and engineering controls are not in place,” said David Roskelley, CIH® and Chair of ABIH®. “We encourage those using 3D printers to read the JOEH study and implement appropriate filtration and ventilation procedures to protect workers, students and the public from potential harm.”
Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) are uniquely qualified to help safeguard workers from airborne pollutants related to 3D printers and other occupational exposure concerns. CIHs are trained in risks assessments; air sampling and instrumentational analysis; engineering controls and ventilation; health risk analysis and hazard communication; and work environments and industrial processes. This knowledge, in addition to administrative controls and the proper use of personal protective equipment for some circumstances, can be instrumental in reducing these exposure risks.