Tragically, a Berkeley couple was found dead in their home in January, possibly because their 3D printer created enough carbon monoxide to poison them and their pets. The 3D printer vented into their home.

After they discovered the couple, police evacuated the apartment building and called in PG&E, as well as the fire department’s hazardous materials team to look for a gas leak or another poison. Neither PG&E nor the fire department found any contaminants.

Police have still not determined the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning. Last year, the Illinois Institute of Technology studied five commercially available brands of 3D printers and found they emit fine particles and from heating plastic. The team of scientists concluded that 3D printers could be dangerous if they aren’t equipped with enclosures and ventilation. Consumer models normally don’t have such features.

Carbon monoxide poisoning, while rare, is estimated to cause 500 deaths per year in the U.S. Another 15,000 are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. Normally carbon monoxide poisoning is related to cold weather and the malfunction of a furnace, although there are a number of sources of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is referred to as a silent killer because it does not have an odor, a taste, or a color. It is formed when a fossil fuel such as gasoline, oil, or charcoal is not completely combusted during burning. If carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin in an individual’s blood, it can block their ability to carry oxygen to the cells of the body. The body may begin to suffocate, even though the person is still breathing.

There are a number of symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, brain damage, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death. Poisoning can occur in a longer period of time or a short period of time, depending on the exposure. In very severe cases, death can occur in a few minutes. Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning may need oxygen to help resume normal breathing.

Carbon monoxide cannot be easily detected, so detectors should be installed in homes, particularly in those that use oil or gas furnaces. It’s also important that cars never be allowed to idle inside the garage and that charcoal grills not burn inside a home or garage.

In some situations, the carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by the negligence of another party. A furnace may not have been manufactured or maintained properly, which can result in carbon monoxide exposure. A landlord may not have properly installed carbon monoxide detectors. In this case, it is possible that the 3D printer’s manufacturer may not have warned of the dangers of using the printer in an enclosed area.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of carbon monoxide exposure, you should speak with an attorney. An attorney can help evaluate your case to determine your legal rights. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that anyone who is hurt because of another party’s negligence should consider all of his or her legal options to obtain compensation for any injuries. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco area, call San Francisco personal injury attorney Micha Star Liberty at 510-645-1000. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.

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