3D Printed Parts Toxic To Zebrafish Embryos

Exposure to 3D printed discs caused zebrafish embryos to die within seven days, highlighting the potential toxic impact of 3D printing.

AsianScientist (Nov. 27, 2015) – Scientists have shown that some 3D printed parts are highly toxic to zebrafish embryos. Their findings, reported in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, could have implications not only for aquatic life but also for hobbyists, manufacturers and patients.

Little is known about the safety of 3D printer materials even though the technology is blooming. In 2012, the market for 3D printing was worth US$288 million, according to an analysis by Canalys, Inc. By 2018, its value is projected to soar to US$16.2 billion. The driver for this market has largely been use in medical applications, but with prices dropping for 3D printers, more hobbyists and small businesses are expected to adopt the technology.

Some research has already raised concerns that the printed materials might cause inflammatory or allergic reactions in patients. But little work has been done to explore their potential effects on an organism’s overall health and development. William H. Grover, assistant professor of Bioengineering at the University of California, and colleagues from Nanjing University aimed to find out.

The researchers exposed zebrafish embryos to discs printed by two kinds of commercial 3D printers: fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers and stereolithography (STL) printers. Among other problems, the embryos exposed to either type of disc showed lower survival, reduced lengths and decreased hatching rates compared to the controls.

In addition, all embryos exposed to STL-printed parts had malformations and died within seven days. The researchers found that treating 3D printed pieces with ultraviolet (UV) light for 30 minutes on each side seemed to reduce some side effects. They conclude that safe disposal strategies for 3D printed products and waste materials are needed to protect aquatic life.

The article can be found at: Oskui et al. (2015) Assessing and Reducing the Toxicity of 3D-Printed Parts.


Source: America Chemical Society. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr/CC.
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