Once the domain of science fiction, 3D printers have become readily accessible and can now be found in schools, offices and even homes. While amazing to use, a new study is shedding light on the serious dangers they pose to your health.

Airborne toxins

A team of researchers at UL Chemical Safety and Georgia Institute of Technology found that 3D printers eject nearly 200 chemicals into the air during the printing process. Some of these chemicals include formaldehyde, caprolactam, and styrene. Known as volatile organic compounds, these particles are known to be carcinogenic and harmful to humans.

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All are considered fine particles and are dangerous since they can be inhaled without you even knowing it. Once these chemicals enter your body they can wreak havoc on your tissues and cells, causing damage to your heart, lungs, eyes and other essential bodily functions.

How it works

A 3D printer works by scanning an object and creating a digital copy before recreating it layer-by-layer. These layers are made up of melted plastics and metals which are then left to cool and harden at room temperature. It is during the printing process that ultrafine particles are released into the atmosphere.

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Researchers found the biggest concern was the temperature of the filament used to melt the various materials. The higher the temperature, the greater the risk of exposure. Other factors involved in high emissions are the filament type, brand, and color.

Keeping your family safe

So what, if anything can be done to lower your risk of exposure while using a 3D printer at home?

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Researchers recommend following these safety precautions:
– Only operate 3D printers in a well-ventilated area.
– Keep a safe distance away from the device during the printing process.
– Set the nozzle temperature to the lowest recommended setting.
– Use printers and materials that are known to be low emitters of ultrafine particles.