Occupational Asthma Reference

House R, Rajaram N, Tarlo SM, Case report of asthma associated with 3D printing, Occup Med, 2017;67:652-654,https://doi.org/10.1093/occmed/kqx129

Keywords: canada, cr, acrylic, 3D printing, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, br,

Known Authors

Susan Tarlo, Toronto Susan Tarlo

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Three-dimensional (3D) printing is being increasingly used in manufacturing and by small business entrepreneurs and home hobbyists. Exposure to airborne emissions during 3D printing raises the issue of whether there may be adverse health effects associated with these emissions.

We present a case of a worker who developed asthma while using 3D printers, which illustrates that respiratory problems may be associated with 3D printer emissions.

Case report
The patient was a 28-year-old self-employed businessman with a past history of asthma in childhood, which had resolved completely by the age of eight. He started using 10 fused deposition modelling 3D printers with acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene filaments in a small work area of approximately 3000 cubic feet. Ten days later, he began to experience recurrent chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing at work. After 3 months, his work environment was modified by reducing the number of printers, changing to polylactic acid filaments and using an air purifier with an high-efficiency particulate air filter and organic cartridge. His symptoms improved gradually, although he still needed periodic treatment with a salbutamol inhaler. While still symptomatic, a methacholine challenge indicated a provocation concentration causing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PC20) of 4 mg/ml, consistent with mild asthma. Eventually, his symptoms resolved completely and a second methacholine challenge after symptom resolution was normal (PC20 > 16 mg/ml).

This case indicates that workers may develop respiratory problems, including asthma when using 3D printers. Further investigation of the specific airborne emissions and health problems from 3D printing is warranted.

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3D printing may be causing occupational asthma, or perhaps hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This case report shows asthma developing after what was probably high exposure to heated acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), with some improvement when switching to polylactic acid filaments. Unfortunately specific challenge was not done

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