Transparency, excellent toughness, thermal stability and a very good dimensional stability make Polycarbonate (PC) one of the most widely used engineering thermoplastics. For the same reasons, PC has become a popular 3D printing filament material. However, there are concerns about its’ long-term impacts and evidence exists to suggest PC is potentially toxic due to the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA).
What is Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical building block that is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. The primary benefit of this compound is to make plastics flexible but also strong, and this is a major reason as to why PC is the plastic of choice for engineering applications. However, BPA poses major health concerns to public health and safety.
Research from University of Exeter found that BPA was present in the digestive system of 86% of teenagers who took part in a recent study.
As reported by Sky News, “Whilst some research suggests that low levels of BPA do not do any harm, the European Commission recently ruled it was a threat to human health…”.
Quoting an NHS news article, “BPA may mimic hormones and interfere with the endocrine system of glands, which release hormones around the body”
In addition to human health impacts, BPA can also pose a danger to wildlife and our natural environment. In March 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a chemical action plan for BPA that proposes to “list BPA as a chemical of concern that may present an unreasonable risk to certain aquatic species at concentrations similar to those found in the environment”.
In 2013, scientists published findings showing that BPA exposure can affect egg maturation in humans. In 2015, a literature review of previous studies found evidence that BPA can potentially affect puberty and ovulation, and may even cause infertility. Research has also linked even low-dose BPA exposure to cardiovascular problems; quoting the study, “higher urinary BPA concentration in humans is associated with various types of CV diseases, including angina, hypertension, heart attack and coronary and peripheral arterial disease.”
3D Printing and BPA exposure
From a mechanical properties perspective alone, PC is an effective material – known for being a strong, durable, and tough material. 3D printing is becoming increasingly more commonplace – used for prototyping, tooling, casting, and even end-use parts – which has led to countless brands selling PC 3D printer filament in order to meet market demand for engineering-grade materials.
However, 3D printing with PC produces a lot of micro-fine particles and this is most common mediums of exposure to BPA. In addition, if PC filament is used to 3D print containers or bottles which are then used to consume food/drink, research suggests this significantly increases exposure to BPA.
As an ethical brand, committed to social and environmental sustainability, Filamentive wants to innovate and meet the demands of 3D printing, without compromising on health, safety and wellbeing. The result of research and development is bioPC. Featuring heat resistance in excess of 100°C, superior chemical resistance and unrivalled impact resistance, this modified copolyester is the perfect material for engineering applications. The BPA-free formulation ensures it is safe to people and also the planet, and the fact you can print it on an open machine ensures excellent printability. Overall, an innovative, engineering filament that is earth-friendly, human friendly and printer-friendly.
“If you are looking for a heat resistant material with good strength where you don’t need to worry as much about your health then bioPC from Filamentive is definitely worth looking at!”