Clark Seif Clark Inc.

Volatile Organic Compound Exposure Risks from 3D Printers

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Source: Clark Seif Clark Inc.

The industrial hygiene and air quality professionals at Clark Seif Clark work to identify and mitigate potential respirable and occupational hazards.

Chatsworth, CA -- Due to their initial high cost, corporate research laboratories and major universities were some of the earliest adopters of three-dimensional (3D) printing technologies. In recent years, 3D printers have become increasingly popular as the cost to own and operate these devices has dropped dramatically. 

Today, 3D printers can be purchased for only a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  Consequently, these items can now be found in many businesses, factory floors, colleges, high schools and even people’s homes. The vast majority of people who utilize 3D printers likely have no idea they could be exposing themselves and others nearby to potential respirable pollutants. Much of the concern is due to exposure concerns associated with nanoparticles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by these machines.

Recently, some universities have taken notice of these concerns. For example, the University of Florida has a published a 3D Printer Policy and the University of Vermont provides students and faculty with online 3D Printer Safety information. Documents such as these typically provide information about ventilation requirements, personal protective equipment and special training for 3D printer users.

“Earlier this year, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) published research information related to 3D printing and its potential adverse impacts to the breathing environment,” said Derrick A. Denis, V.P. of Indoor Environmental Quality at Clark Seif Clark (CSC). “With any new technology or technique there can be unknown safety concerns.  For example, common filaments used in fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers appear to release particulate matter and VOCs when in use. As with any emission generating activity, without the appropriate isolation and/or ventilation, concentrations of emissions have the potential to become significant and to result in air quality concerns for operators and/or bystanders.”

Identifying VOCs and particulate matter are just a few of the many indoor air quality (IAQ) and industrial hygiene testing and consulting services offered by CSC. Their experts provide testing and monitoring for airborne substances as well as consulting and training services for personal protective equipment, building ventilation and filtration, work practices and numerous other occupational, health and safety issues. CSC has even sponsored an educational video about 3D printers and potential airborne exposure concerns that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/4oTy8KUbAeY

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