Source: carbon monoxide identified in deaths of California couple, cats

Originally published at:

I’d assume it was a stereolithographic printer (the kind that uses a light-cured resin), since they call it a “laser 3D printer”. If it were an SLS machine, which I don’t imagine many people have in their apartments, the only way it’s giving off significant fumes is if the powder medium is on fire somehow.

The whole claim sounds a bit tenuous anyway, because if the fire department didn’t find any “contaminant”, what makes anyone think the contaminant they didn’t find came from a 3D printer?


This wasn’t a 3D printer. They were using a laser cutter.

I’ve known several people who had near misses or hospital visits because of improper laser cutter venting combined with bad materials.


Like the kind that cuts thin metal or wood into fancy shapes?

How much cutting would one have to do to create enough CO to be a problem?



Depends on the power and materials. I don’t know what outgasses carbon monoxide off the top of my head. I’ve had to clear a room after cutting acrylic and wood for 10 or 15 minutes before when the venting failed. If you cut PVC, you’d get chlorine gas, for example.

One source I see says acrylic can outgas carbon monoxide:


burning anything indoors with no ventilation is bad juju period.


Huh - not that I mess with any of this directly, but I had no idea 15 min of the wrong stuff with out ventilation could be deadly.


My 3D printers live in a laundry room with two windows and an external (only) door off of my back deck. My consumer laser cutter (if it ever ships from its Kickstarter) will live there too with a dedicated window vent.

Anyone who has played with 3D printers know that ABS, a very common filament plastic, outgasses fumes that cause a lot of people to react if they are concentrated over time and not vented. PLA, which is more common now, doesn’t have this issue.


This sucks. Small consolation to the families but getting this story out to the maker community at large is probably going to prevent similar deaths through education.


Laser cutters can be extremely dangerous. PVC emits chlorine gas. ABS emits cyanide gas. Not using proper ventilation is extremely dangerous.

Not saying that’s what happened here, but saying knowing what you’re cutting is very important.


I use a gas stove inside all the time, and have never had any trouble.


Doesn’t your stove have a ventilation hood?


Right, gas stoves are designed to have the right mix of air to gas for good combustion (burner nozzle design and adequate clearance between pan and top surface for good air flow). Problems happen with undesigned burning or damaged equipment, or home built burners. Still, ventilation is your friend and given a choice between warmth and breathable air, the open window wins every time. Also, install a monoxide alarm. I had a close call at a friend’s house. Luckily his alarm went off and we evacuated, realized we all had headaches, then figured out his oven hadn’t been fully turned off for an hour. Get a monoxide alarm.


Ventilation hoods that actually vent to the outside are rare here (most of them just recirculate into the kitchen). Many kitchens don’t have vents at all. Natural gas stoves are clean burning and do not cause CO problems.


Many of the original posts on this topic, including the NY Daily News article have changes the wording to reflect that their deaths may have been erroneously blamed on a 3-D printer.

3D Printing Nerd has a great take down on how unlikely it is 3D printing caused the death.


Can’t +1 this enough. They’re just about cheap enough and for anyone working with burning weird materials or just living in cheap rentals, this could save your life.


I did!

(No, I’m not that guy but given the number of 3D printers I’ve built and operated over the last six or so years, I qualify.)

Here in California, you’re legally required to have a carbon monoxide detector in a space, just like a smoke alarm. City inspectors won’t pass inspections inside without one.

These folks died within two miles of me, at a guess. I’m not entirely sure what happened but I suspect a perfect storm of inattention and just human mistakes.


I updated the story and headline, given that it’s much more likely to have been a laser cutter than a sintering type people usually mean by “3d printer”


There’s a cat in that picture. What happened to the cat? Is the cat okay?

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It almost certainly doesn’t help that pretty much all the early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are either pretty generic, impair judgement, or both; so you can’t expect someone to recognize the problem and flee without either suitable knowledge and vigilance(potentially including a willingness to cause false alarms, headaches, dizziness, and nonspecific fatigue aren’t exactly uncommon for all sort of reasons) or appropriate detectors. Very easy to be lulled by the initial dose into not doing anything to mitigate further exposure and then accumulate a lethal level.

Not quite as subtle as inert gas asphyxiation; but lethal at much lower concentrations.