I've been talking to the police directly, and nothing is conclusive yet. Nothing has actually been ruled out, nor determined to be the cause. They don't even have full toxicology reports yet, those take days and sometimes weeks.
On a personal note, I can tell you that there were two devices in the house, a small 3D printer, and a small laser cutter, that were used for building models and rigs for scientific research. Val was an immaculate engineer, and conformed to all safety rules in operating these machines. To the best of our knowledge, neither of the machines were operating the night they passed away.
Again, please refrain from fear-mongering and speculation. I know it's natural for engineers to attack unsolved problems, but you are not working with correct or full data. Once more data is available, we will write up a complete and truthful statement to try and provide closure on this issue.
To answer some of the questions in this thread all at once:
1. The unit was about 900 square feet. Looks like someone calculated roughly that from the publicly available information.
2. The laser cutter itself was a very small device. I don't remember the exact size, but the cutting bed wasn't more than 2 by 2 feet, and likely smaller than that.
3. Most importantly, from what the investigators told us, the laser cutter bed was completely empty and it wasn't running when they found it. The same goes for the 3D printer.
Friends here on the ground have their ideas based on what we know about the apartment, and we have made suggestions to the investigators. We are hoping they do due diligence. While I'd like to tell you more, we are trying to avoid all speculation. We know it's stressful, but please hang in there.
CO is odorless. You might get a headache, or you might only feel tired. What's worse: a lot of cheap CO detectors are pretty shoddy.
For context, our house is 3 levels with a furnace in the basement (cold climate; Canada) I ended up with 3 different brand of CO detectors, 2 different brands of smoke detectors and 1 radon detector.
By far the Radon detector is the most expensive at around $250 CAD, and least critical for the short term (but for the long term concerns, anyone with a below grade section of their home should have one!).
A decent Co + smoke detector (You can often get them in one unit) should cost you no more than $30-40 CAD. Testing a CO detector isn't super easy (not like smoke detectors - just make some well done toast), but I'm trusting that if i have several different kinds well distributed throughout the house at least one of them should save us.
I focused on keeping detectors both near and & inside bedrooms, as well as having a minimum of 1 smoke + CO detector on the other floors in open spaces.
Unrelated to these gasses, I also purchased VOC sensors. These are SUPER interesting. It's amazing how the VOC level rises after a few days, and all it takes is opening a window for a few hours to bring it back to lower levels. We were renovating recently and found that after virtually every contractor the house needed hours of windows open to bring the VOC level back down to something that the sensor considered "good quality" (lower than 450 ppm).
Hope that random rant was interesting to someone :)
After I purchased my new house (USA, Georgia) I put in the detectors. My wife is from China where people are rightfully paranoid about formaldehyde - due to low quality building material. It's basically the same in the USA, except people are a lot less knowledgeable and informed about it. My cabinets, drywall, paint all had high level of formaldehyde. Had to always had the windows open...otherwise it would rise above OSHA approved levels.
In the USA, there's no regulated levels for residence..but there is for office. Funny, isn't it.
Sadly they do not break it down by substance type (which the website almost suggests it does), but i find it very interesting to monitor and that the measurements are highly correlated with painting or opening a window.
I have Foobot (https://foobot.io/) and looks like it cost twiec as much as eve but probably does the same thing. Though, it doesn't say if eve uses wifi..I just see it say bluetooth. I like how Eve is battery powered, you can bring it wherver you want - whereas Foobot is plugged in.
I have UNI-T UT-338C for on the fly readings. I like how the UNI-T can be portable, or plugged in and has a display. I get similar readings between the UNI-T and Footbot so I can somewhat trust it...
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature.
EDIT: I ended up ordering a Foobot after doing some homework
I'm curious what options are out there that will connect via something like RS232 or USB and let you tie into a centralized logging system (which would be incredibly easy to build). "Windows app with one-click data export" would be nice but isn't quite the same as a realtime feed.
The main question would be whether polite pokings would produce protocol documentation, if this isn't already shoved in a forgotten corner on the website (or something).
You can't just go outside to get fresh air since the CO just won't let go.
I believe the normal way it works is oxygen and carbon dioxide use different sections of hemoglobin molecule so they never interfere with the way each are transported. But CO hogs it all oxygen has no chance of affixing to hemoglobin since there is nowhere to stick.
CO's action is not purely competitive. Its binding at one binding site influences the three other sites to bind oxygen so strongly that oxygen won't dissociate from the complex where it is needed; In tissues, starving them of oxygen.
Yes you can...
Intuitively most people would think that just stopping to breathe CO is sufficient and breathing fresh air would displace it as quickly as with other common gasses (i.e. you may cough for a bit but recover in minutes) but the point is that CO is clingy.
EDIT: Elsewhere you agree with the assessment that the half-life under "fresh air" is somewhere around 4 hours, so I think you would agree that "just breathe fresh air for a bit" (implying minutes, maybe an hour) isn't a satisfactory treatment in serious cases.
You should absolutely seek medical treatment if you suspect you have been exposed to CO. I'm not trying to make light of that. My point is simply that CO is not actually as "clingy" as some in this thread are making it out to be.
I am a paramedic. We carry a portable CO meter on our "BLS bag" (the bag that gets brought in on the vast majority of calls), because more than once a "general illness" call has turned out to be CO poisoning.
Do you carry other equipment for personal protection like that (or the long version - what's in the bag!?)?
We are a combination fire/EMS agency, so I am also a firefighter, with all the gear that goes along with that.
As far as the bags go, we have three main bags:
-The "BLS" or "Airway" bag, which contains a lot of "basic" equipment (bandages, oxygen, some common meds, etc), as well as more advanced airway management equipment (laryngoscopes and endotracheal intubation tubes, etc).
-The "ALS" or "Med" bag, which contains all ~30 medications we carry, as well as IV fluids and all the necessary pointy things to get medications into people.
-The "Pediatric" or "Peds" bag, which contains most of the same stuff as the other two bags, just in smaller quantities, and sized for kids.
There are also a few other more specialized bags (the burn bag, the trauma bag, etc), and portable equipment (portable heart monitor, suction, etc)
: Stock photo of a standard "class b" uniform: https://www.lansinguniform.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Fi...
I'm not trying to suggest that more advanced treatment is never necessary (I am the person who provides that treatment...), my point is simply that there are _many_ people who experience low level, chronic exposures to carbon monoxide that require no further treatment than leaving the environment.
In case of natural gas, we have long long time ago started mandating odorization (after a lot of silent deaths): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odorizer
This time, we basically allow laser cutter manufacturers to ignore these lessons (learned with a losses of thousands of lives).
That smells of an easy sensationalist headline there.
They may have had a deadly amount of CO/particulates from their laser cutter in their apt but their ventilation kept them alive. Closing their windows during last week's rain/cold spells could have been deadly. Also there is a possibility of particulate buildup in vents that could have been released if they turned on their heat in an enclosed apartment.
CO leaves you with diminished capability to bind o2, breathing in a small enclosed apt leads to a buildup of CO2. This tragedy could be a combination of CO and CO2 inhalation.
They may not be accurate but they don't need to be at the levels where CO becomes fatal. It is better to have several inexpensive ones than just one or two $300 highly accurate ones. Since you don't know where the CO will be localised.
You can test them yourself fairly inexpensively look for "HOME SAFEGUARD HO-CO2 Carbon Monoxide Detector Tester, Aerosol." Get a Ziploc bag or similar air tight baggy. Place the alarm in a bag, spray the Aerosol in it, and wait. It should go off in 2-5 minutes. Obviously it is best to do this test outside.
Consumer Reports also tests them:
If you can get a good, trusted brand for home CO monitors, I'd say go for it.
Apparently, Kidde is a trusted brand in fire alarms etc. in the US, so I think this one ($20) is probably equally trustworthy:
I shudder to think that you would risk your life on a device of questionable quality.
The problem is surely knowing whether the expensive equivalent is just the same internals in a different retail pack (with other 'quality' signalling). That's genuinely hard for something that needs a lab to be tested.
There are a few companies that sell low level CO monitors for residential use. They're all somewhat pricey.
A CO monitor will set you back $235.
Don't use a propane heater, please. It's dangerous to you and potentially to others nearby.
Source: Been there.
I use First Alert personally (they have model with Z-Wave integration that ties into my home automation system). We carry a few Kiddie smoke/CO detectors on the fire truck to install if we notice a home doesn't have one (or if the one they had failed).
For those who haven't seen it, here:
But if you want to do it right, you also need a calibration station and calibration gas bottles. It is quite an effort.
[No product placement, also look for Honeywell and others.]
What's the limit on that? The link you posted says 2.5 atm of pure oxygen but how does that not cause oxygen toxicity?
Does the CO actually get out or do the red blood cells die and get replaced?
There are lots of things you don't want to cut on a laser cutter unless
you're cutting under an inert gas, or at least nitrogen. Polycarbonate, any of the chlorinated plastics (PVC, some synthetic leather), styrenes, and polyethylene, for example. ABS melts, and Fiberglas's glass component won't cut. Acrylics cut very well. Delrin cuts OK. Wood and cloth are OK. Techshop is careful to teach people about this.
TechShop's laser cutters have compressed air coming in, a big exhaust hose going out, and a fire extinguisher nearby. TechShop has an ad slogan, "Don't try this at home. Do it at TechShop". There's something to be said for that when you're using industrial-strength tools.
In addition to the two people, their two cats died. Operating these things in a closed room is a really bad idea.
If you use a laser, ours or anyone else's, please go back right now and re-read the safety instructions. Accidents like this should never happen. My heart breaks for those affected by this.
It would be appropriate to put a CO detector in your units before somebody does that with one of yours. That definitely needs to be in the "filtered" units that are supposed to operate with no ventilation.
The other unambiguously suggests the example is the culprit. And as other posts in other threads suggest, the printer, whichever brand, being the source of the CO poisoning isn't even certain.
I don't work for Glowforge, and you may note my other comment in this thread, which could be taken as critical, so I'm not biased or trying to spin "damage control". And yet, I too think the thread's root's language could be more precise.
Personally I hope the cause wasn't a laser cutter, this could really hurt a young and fragile and mostly innocious industry :(
Yes, CO is similar to air's molar mass (it's actually slightly lower), meaning it will diffuse evenly through the vertical space in the room. The concentrations at the ceiling will be the same as the concentrations on the floor.
Stop spreading misinformation.
Diffusion of gasses in the air is an extremely rapid process. In a minute the concentration would be the same throughout the room.
"Should the placement of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors be influenced by CO's weight relative to air?"
Their conclusion agrees with you completely:
What does this say about the placement of residential CO monitors? It would be reasonable to place them anywhere in the room and expect them to be effective. Every scenario imaginable in a home would only speed the mixing of the gas within a real room, as compared to a sealed chamber — people walking, forced air flowing from vents, CO entrainment with warm air being released into a room at floor level and then rising.
The belief held by many that CO sinks is clearly wrong. Statements such as ‘‘Carbon monoxide is heavier than air, and will pool in lower areas’’ need to be refuted with facts (5). Even if CO were significantly heavier or lighter than air, it would still distribute equally from ceiling to floor.
On the other hand, they did find that the rate of diffusion can be much slower than "in a minute":
The time required for the equilibration of CO concentration was different depending on the level of infusion. It occurred most rapidly when CO was introduced in the middle of the chamber (2 min), at an intermediate rate when introduced at the bottom (40 min), and most slowly when introduced at the top (105 min). Nonetheless, the ultimate concentration was equal throughout the chamber, with no suggestion of any pooling on the floor, layering in the middle, or floating on top.
That said I watched the video for this product and I'm really looking forward to when these are widespread. It's a very exciting industry. I'd definitely buy one of these when it gets to around $1k.
They weren't students. Roger was a game developer while Valerie was a post-doc. They just happened to live in Berkeley.
Glowforge Pro + Air Filter: $5,995.00
Glowforge Basic + Air Filter: $3,745.00
Glowforge Basic: $2,995.00
Warning: You may die when using Glowforge inside without Air filter (link). You may also die when cuting these materials (link) inside even with air filter.
The results are really bad anyways, it melts and burns. I'm curious though, can you get good cutting of polycarbonate using an inert gas shield? That would be interesting.
Berkeley has been unusually cold/rainy this last week and I'm guessing they sealed up their apt and didn't realize how dangerous that was.
He was so into his indy game, Shard, and even whipped out his laptop to show me and started explaining intricacies of the renderer when I met him at an industry event years later.
I didn't know his wife, but from the things I've read she was also a pioneer in her industry. Rest in Peace.
My sense is that laser cutters should be required to come with CO detectors, and more generally we should be looking to add the appropriate chemical detectors to 3d printers and laser printers to warn of other chemical output issues. These home machines are often advertised for use in confined spaces (size is one way manufacturers compete), which is why I think it should be regulated - its not like someone took a commercial machine home with them. Laser cutters are a fairly large capital expense and bolting on a CO detector is very inexpensive (probably <1%), and it could integrate with the cutter's electronics to prevent usage if it exceeds a certain level.
Safety regulations are usually written in blood. Having two deaths with such a small # of these machines out there suggests there are probably others who have cumulative CO effects already. Very sad, my heart goes out to the friends and family of Roger & Valerie.
That's a surprising cause though. How much CO can a laser printer/cutter produce, worst case?
As both a maker and a firefighter, I would be _very_ surprised if CO from a laser cutter was actually the cause here. Laser cutters can absolutely emit harmful fumes, but CO needs to be in the hundreds of ppm range to be fatal, and that's a _lot_ of CO.
For context, we had a call a while back where a guy was running a gas powered (two-stroke) rotary saw  for a couple hours in a poorly ventilated basement. CO levels were in the 300-400 range (and he was certainly feeling poorly).
 Something like this: https://www.fastenal.com/products/details/0804841
The exhaust was blocked with soot.
I also had a friend and his GF that died from an improperly installed furnace.
I also wonder about cyanide from cutting plastic as well as carbon monoxide. No idea, but they both seem about as toxic.
"According to a study completed by a team at the Illinois Institute of Technology, typical desktop 3D printers emit particles and compounds during printing that federal agencies say could cause cancer or other ailments."
I'd also search around for books and papers on electronics safety. It's really amazing just how little electricity is required to stop a human heart, if the conditions are right.
The same goes for chemical safety. College level textbooks on these subjects tend to at least give a decent overview of the issues involved, to a more thorough degree than books targeted at a popular audience. But I wouldn't stop there, and would try to find some more specialist literature dealing with safety in particular.
I'd also encourage you to take courses in these subjects, and talk to the professors about your interest in safety. Unfortunately safety is not a very sexy topic, and tends to get glossed over a lot. But you'll still be far better off with guidance from an experienced instructor than trying to go it all on your own.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_data_sheet
When I was an academic I had huge problems with students working with the truely dangerous chemicals in an unsafe manner because they couldn't tell the difference. I had to run little informal classes with my students where I would teach them which chemicals they had to worry about and which were not that dangerous.
> In case of Skin Contact: Wash with soap and water. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. Get medical attention if irritation develops. Cold water may be used
Okay, you’re right, these are overly alarming.
MSDS's are good, but you'll go nuts trying to accommodate all of them.
1) Safety glasses. Safety glasses. SAFETY GLASSES. I can't mention this enough. Most injuries can be adjusted to accommodate--losing your eyes isn't like that. And, if you're using one of the more powerful lasers, get the specialty glasses for that.
2) Soldering doesn't really vaporize lead. There are other nasty things in the flux and board (Chlorine radicals are particularly bad). Keep your area ventilated and try not to inhale stuff. Fume hoods are excellent, but nobody I know who does this ever used one. An open window or open garage door generally is good enough for soldering.
3) Use leaded solder. Yes, I said it. Lead-free solder sucks to work with by hand. Lead-free solder takes a lot more heat and vaporizes more garbage than leaded solder, not less. One of the best ways to desolder lead-free solder is actually to add leaded solder and then desolder the result since it now melts at a lower temperature.
4) Too many people store their solder paste in the same fridge with food. That's a problem. Solder balls get everywhere very easily.
5) Arc welding is nasty. Old school shielded metal arc welding (stick welding) vaporizes all manner of nasty stuff. Use MIG or TIG instead--they still vaporize stuff but way less. They're better welds anyway. Also be careful about welding things like galvanized steel.
6) Hearing protection. You need it more than you think you do. I have hearing loss from years in server rooms in the 1990's.
7) Respect even the small machines. A small milling machine or lathe can't take off your hand as quickly as a radial saw, but it can still maim you quite badly.
8) Respect anything with a cutting edge even if not powered. Sure, an unpowered cutting edge probably won't kill or permanently maim you, but that doesn't mean you can get careless. I see people change milling bits without wrapping the bit in cloth while they hold it all the time. Generally, those same people wind up with scars across the palm of their hand. I suspect the lowly utility knife causes more injuries than any other tool.
9) Powders are really damn dangerous. In addition to being highly flammable and explosive, they get in your lungs and don't come out easily. Sawdust from real wood is bad--sawdust from particle board is worse. It has all manner of nasty shit in it.
10) Volatile organics are worse than you think. Acetone, kerosene, paint thinner, etc. do nasty things to you. If people can use it for "huffing", it probably is nasty to your brain. Ventilate these things much better than you would for everything else.
Is there a simple way to lookup a material and make sure you're using the right safety precautions? Most materials seems to carry the "will cause cancer, sometimes, maybe, always" label.
Is there a modern "maker" safety course, covering things like 3d printing, laser cutting, glues and paints, electronics, etc. that I can follow?
As someone waiting for their Glowforge to ship, I really hope their device wasn't involved in all this.
> It needs ventilation via the provided 4″ diameter (10.2cm) hose. We recommend putting the hose out a window.
> Lasers normally require some ventilation via a small tube out a nearby window. Our optional Air Filter that sits under Glowforge and ventilates using HEPA filters and charcoal, meaning no outside ventilation is required.
Best to my knowledge HEPA and charcoal don't help against CO. So running one with the filter in an unventilated space might still be hazardous.
Carbon monoxide is a few orders of magnitude too small to be caught by a HEPA filter, in fact a filter that could filter CO would filter oxygen and nitrogen as well. Such a filter would just be a pump.
There, however, exists a patent for a filter for CO, it works by converting the CO to CO2:
(It's not quite as simple as just putting one in-line with the waste gas flow- the catalyst would also need to be externally heated.)
This technique is routinely used to generate concentrated supplies of oxygen or nitrogen, but is wildly expensive compared to ventilation.
Having said that, while good safety information is important, two MIT-trained engineers should really have known better.
That said, I'm assuming Glowforge is going to scramble to make sure that users use their device safely regardless.
Some home-built tubes do use a gas supply, but virtually no one builds their own CO2 tube to use in a laser cutter when better tubes are available on eBay for $100.
Air assist, yes (to clear smoke and particles from the beam and protect the focus lens from soot), but that's just an air pump, not a gas supply.
This is speculation on my part based on my assumptions. If my assumptions are incorrect that's fine.
As others have said, normal laser cutters have sealed tubes, although its of course possible they had some DIY rig for whatever reason. MIT students building their own CO2 laser just for fun doesn't seem all that odd, using it for long time in a cutter maybe more so. I don't know if a leak in a CO2 system would lead to CO poisoning or no. CO produced by the material cut seems more likely to me.
however, after thinking some more, I agree that CO from material cut is more likely.
Many folks use small compressors for this purpose.
But it won't have anything to do with CO levels.
CO is odorless. You might get a headache, or you might only feel tired. What's worse: a lot of CO detectors are pretty shoddy.
There is very little gas in a tube though.
Anyone with combustion sources of any kinds (gas heat, cooking, cars in a garage, many kinds of tools) should have a CO sensor properly placed. I'm staying at someone's house for a month, don't see one, so I just ordered a couple.
i'd prefer it that the 'authorities' do a thorough and scientific investigation and release the results in public on the internet, this needs to be proven beyond all doubts that it is caused by the laser cutter or 3d printer
if this is not done, it would stir worldwide unnecessary panic about laser cutters and/or 3d printers by saying that laser cutters and/or 3d printers produces carbon monoxide and is dangerous and hence cannot be used
i'm not sure about laser cutters but normally 3d printers is more a fire hazard than do anything else, i.e. 3d printers main hazard is fire, but carbon monoxide is likely 'fake and invalid/assumptions/speculations'
no fans either, just to be safe.
It's a tragedy, and reminded me of Marie Curie (who eventually discovered her research was causing damaging levels of radiation exposure).
Why even bother? The device has one job, and it fails. All you get is a false sense of safety.
The reason for this is to prevent common false alarms like CO emitted due to cooking or smoking.
I've been talking to the police directly, and nothing is conclusive yet. They don't even have full toxicology reports.
Both MIT grads; one a founder of gaming company Glug Glug and co-author of game Shard
Further investigation and toxicology reports revealed carbon monoxide (fixed) poisoning. It appears the initial statements ruling out carbon monoxide poisoning were in error.
The UK HSE has published a video of a real-life incident where someone experiences CO2 toxicity from a rebreather (the victim survived and recovered) .
All the signs were CO poisoning from the start. I think first responders said the body discoloration looked like that. The "ruled out" is probably just a mangling of: water heater, oven, and furnace all ruled out as CO sources.
Sounds like they were likely running a laser cutter and the "generator" sound was actually an air compressor. (These are used to blow the smoke out of the way of the beam so that you get a cleaner, more accurate cut.)
Chlorine gas is a major risk with a lot of materials, but presumably there could by other kinds of nasty fumes depending on what they were cutting.
edit: others are saying that it was in fact CO, so I'll go with that. I'd still like to know what they were cutting, though.
2015. If that is about the same incident it's quite a while before the current event (unless it's a typo in the article).