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EPA Researches Carbon Nanotubes in 3D Printing Filament

The September 10, 2019, issue of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Matters newsletter includes an article entitled “Keeping up with 3D Printing:  EPA Researchers Build on New Plastic Emissions Study.”  According to the article, EPA scientists, through an agreement with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), are investigating whether increased use of 3D printers can lead to unintended adverse impacts to human health. 

EPA states that while there have been studies on the effects of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from 3D printing, none have considered how the emissions change when certain additives are introduced to the 3D printing filament.  The scientists studied a commonly available filament that is sold both with and without carbon nanotube inclusions to determine whether VOC emissions changed between the two types of product. 

The scientists quantified and characterized VOC emissions from carbon nanotube filaments under a variety of conditions intended to simulate the different heating, melting, and forming of plastics that can occur during 3D printing.  The scientists concluded that:  (1) the filaments with carbon nanotubes emitted two new VOC gases that could potentially pose an inhalation hazard to users printing several kilograms of material; (2) increased print temperature had the most significant effect on increasing VOC emissions, followed by increased length of time heating the material; and (3) carbon nanotube filament may “trap” certain VOC gases in particulates of the printed plastic.  The article notes that EPA’s research to understand exposure to and the health effects of nanomaterials is conducted as part of the interagency National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).  Other NNI members conducting research on 3D printer nanomaterials include CPSC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

©2020 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 261


About this Author

Lynn Bergeson, Campbell PC, Toxic Substances Control Act Attorney, federal insecticide lawyer, industrial biotechnology legal counsel, Food Drug Administration law
Managing Partner

Lynn L. Bergeson has earned an international reputation for her deep and expansive understanding of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and especially how these regulatory programs pertain to nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology, and other emerging transformative technologies. Her knowledge of and involvement in the policy process allows her to develop client-focused strategies whether...

Carla Hutton, Bergeson Campbell PC, global regulatory attorney, public health activists lawyer, metals industry legal counsel, Toxic Substances Control Act law
Regulatory Analyst

Since 1996, Carla Hutton has monitored, researched, and written about regulatory and legislative issues that may potentially affect Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) clients. She is responsible for creating a number of monthly and quarterly regulatory updates for B&C's clients, as well as other documents, such as chemical-specific global assessments of regulatory developments and trends. She authors memoranda for B&C clients on regulatory and legislative developments, providing information that is focused, timely and applicable to client initiatives. These tasks have proven invaluable to many clients, keeping them aware and abreast of developing issues so that they can respond in kind and prepare for the future of their business.

Ms. Hutton brings a wealth of experience and judgment to her work in federal, state, and international chemical regulatory and legislative issues, including green chemistry, nanotechnology, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Proposition 65, and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program.