3-D printers emit ultrafine particles, study says

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Desktop printers that create three-dimensional objects might lead to health problems if they’re used in an area that isn’t well ventilated, a new study indicates.

Researchers at Illinois Institute of Technology found that 3-D printers that use acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polylactic acid (PLA) plastics emit ultrafine particles. Users face a greater chance of breathing in the particles if the printer is used in a poorly ventilated area.

Prior research indicates that the particles that are in plastics are associated with adverse health effects such as asthma, respiratory issues and stroke, says IIT researcher Brent Stephens, who is one of the study’s authors.

However, Stephens says further research must be conducted to determine which chemicals 3-D printers emit and what health concerns the chemicals pose to users.

We’ll take a deeper look at the cost and performance of 3-D printers in the September/October 2013 issue of Consumers Digest.