3D Printers Emit Ultrafine Particles (UFP) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), emissions with known health effects.

Ultrafine Particles (UFP) exposure, risk, and health effects:

The main exposure to UFPs is through inhalation. Due to their size, UFPs are considered to be respirable particles. Contrary to the behaviour of inhaled PM10 and PM2.5, ultrafine particles are deposited in the lungs, where they have the ability to penetrate tissue and undergo interstitialization, or to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and therefore are not easily removed from the body and may have immediate effect. Exposure to UFPs, even if components are not very toxic, may cause oxidative stress, inflammatory mediator release, and could induce heart disease, lung disease, and other systemic effects.The exact mechanism through which UFP exposure leads to health effects remains to be elucidated, but effects on Blood pressure may play a role. It has recently been reported that UFP is associated with an increase in blood pressure in schoolchildren with the smallest particles inducing the largest effect.

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Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) exposure, risk, and health effects:

Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; and damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeding, fatigue, dizziness.

The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effects. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.

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Particle Size:

When filtration companies speak to their HEPA solution removing 99.7% of 0.3um, and their ULPA solution removing 99.7% of 0.1um, these filtration solutions target particles in the 100nm to 300nm size range, they do little to address the UFP, sub 100nm issue, with PLA, ABS, HIPS, and other popular filaments producing UFP particles in the 15nm to 65nm range.

Do HEPA, ULPA, and Carbon filters address the issue?

All current HEPA, ULPA, and Carbon filter based solutions use a single pass technology, where the contaminated air is passed through the filter media once and released into the room. This solution removes only a small percentage of the total UFP and VOC concentration.

Do I need to filter PLA?

Exposure to UFPs, even if components are not very toxic, may cause oxidative stress, inflammatory mediator release, and could induce heart disease, lung disease, and other systemic effects.

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My printer is enclosed, do I need a filtration system?

Enclosed printers contain the UFPs and VOCs until the door is opened.  Upon opening, you are exposed to the full concentration of pollutants.

Should we install a ventilation system?

To reduce print warping, curling, and cracking, 3D printers require draft free, heated environments. Ventilation systems remove heat, and cause drafts.

Research: