A few weeks ago, I posted a rather gruesome picture on FaceBook. It was a picture of my leg, with second-degree chemical burns. These nasty, painful burns had been caused by exposure to the resin that I had spilt on myself when I was moving an SLA printer into my new facility, and mistakenly continued to work for a while rather than cleaning up my exposed skin.
The photos were posted as a resin safety reminder, but I was amazed at the response to the post. While the majority of people took the post as what it was intended to be- A warning about a genuine threat that many haven’t thought about- Others accused me of fearmongering, exaggerating, and outright lying. The stories, photos and, the danger is real.
The Accident- What happened
First, let me make it clear that this isn’t a ‘normal’ injury. There were a set of circumstances and choices that turned what should have been a non-event into a painful wound for me. Had I done what I SHOULD have done, and removed the spilt resin right away, I’d have likely had no more than some red, irritated skin.
I should have removed the resin vats from all the printers before moving them. And, For the most part, I did. For some reason, I overlooked this one printer. And, it sloshed out of the tank and dripped out of the front of the printer. Some were spilt on my bare arms, and on to my shorts and shirt as well. I was worried that the resin would get down inside the printer and cause problems. So- I cleaned it first. It’s an expensive machine, after all. Besides, I only got a LITTLE resin on me- and I’ve never had any real problems with it. I’ll be fine. Right?
I continued to work that day, after changing to clean clothes. Other than some minor irritation, there was no problem at all. I then worked most of the next day, but then the burning started. I could see the blisters form and enlarge then I went to the Emergency Room and got immediately sent to a burn centre. 2nd degree burns on about 10% of my body- Legs, Arms, and stomach.
For those who have chosen not to ‘believe’ my story, here is an excerpt from the hospital report from my visit-
Because of the concerns of developing scar tissue, they needed to scrape the dead skin and blisters off. Because of the extent of the damage, I had to be anaesthetised for the procedure. They scoured the tissue, then applied Cadaver skin to it, and then bandaged it up.
The bandages had to stay on, and dry- Which meant no showers even though we had a record-breaking heatwave here. The pain wasn’t too bad as long as I didn’t try to move much. Luckily, I had some pretty good pills to help with that. It was a little over two weeks before the bandages could come off. I was fortunate. There was minimal scarring.
But, there is a HUGE financial cost to this whole ordeal as well. I am fortunate to have pretty good insurance, but I’ll still be $3-4k out of pocket. The bills have gone over $30,000.00 already- and not all of them are in yet. The first trip to the burn centre alone was over $25,000.00.
Why Did I share this?
Too many people are too casual when it comes to handling the chemicals involved in SLA printing. I see it all the time in forums- Even in the responses to my post- People who don’t bother for various reasons. I’ve seen people who say if it were hazardous, there would be more warnings. There are even those who brag about how much resin they’ve been exposed to, with no apparent ill effects. One person also felt compelled to make a video to “Debunk” my claims, by doing an incredibly stupid experiment where he poured resin on to his skin to see what it would do.
All through this incident, I have fully admitted that I made a dumb mistake. I could EASILY have just done what the majority of people would do in this situation, and keep it to myself. But, I feel like people need to take this stuff more seriously. And, the only way they are going to do that is if they see the consequences.
What SHOULD have been done in this situation?
Well- I should have put my health and safety first. I should have put the printer down, and cleaned myself up properly, THEN worried about the printer. By the time this is done, I could have bought a LOT of new printers with just my copays… And the total bills are likely to approach the amount I spent on my house!
There is no reason to fear the resins- But as with any chemical you work with, you need to have a respect for it. Know how it can harm you and how to protect yourself. And, if you are exposed, know what to do to clean it up. I like to remind those that brag about being able to take the exposure without problems that I, too was once like that. I had NEVER had an adverse reaction to it before this incident. That’s probably what made this incident escalate as it did. I was too complacent.
I hope that seeing what CAN happen leads others to make better choices in how they handle these chemicals. I’ve prepared a video about what happened, which can be seen. Besides, there are links in the description to more photos.