Chemical Composition and Toxicity of Particles Emitted from a Consumer-Level 3D Printer Using Various Materials

Environ Sci Technol. 2019 Oct 15;53(20):12054-12061. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.9b04168. Epub 2019 Sep 26.


Consumer-level 3D printers emit ultrafine and fine particles, though little is known about their chemical composition or potential toxicity. We report chemical characteristics of the particles in comparison to raw filaments and assessments of particle toxicity. Particles emitted from polylactic acid (PLA) appeared to be largely composed of the bulk filament material with mass spectra similar to the PLA monomer spectra. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), extruded at a higher temperature than PLA, emitted vastly more particles and their composition differed from that of the bulk filament, suggesting that trace additives may control particle formation. In vitro cellular assays and in vivo mice exposure all showed toxic responses when exposed to PLA and ABS-emitted particles, where PLA-emitted particles elicited higher response levels than ABS-emitted particles at comparable mass doses. A chemical assay widely used in ambient air-quality studies showed that particles from various filament materials had comparable particle oxidative potentials, slightly lower than those of ambient particulate matter (PM2.5). However, particle emissions from ABS filaments are likely more detrimental when considering overall exposure due to much higher emissions. Our results suggest that 3D printer particle emissions are not benign and exposures should be minimized.

MeSH terms

  • Acrylonitrile*
  • Air Pollutants*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Styrene


  • Air Pollutants
  • Particulate Matter
  • Styrene
  • Acrylonitrile