Potential Health and Environmental Risks of Three-Dimensional Engineered Polymers

Environ Sci Technol Lett. 2018 Feb 13;5(2):80-85. doi: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00495. Epub 2018 Jan 5.


Polymer engineering, such as in three-dimensional (3D) printing, is rapidly gaining popularity, not only in the scientific and medical fields but also in the community in general. However, little is known about the toxicity of engineered materials. Therefore, we assessed the toxicity of 3D-printed and molded parts from five different polymers commonly used for prototyping, fabrication of organ-on-a-chip platforms, and medical devices. Toxic effects of PIC100, E-Shell200, E-Shell300, polydimethylsiloxane, and polystyrene (PS) on early bovine embryo development, on the transactivation of estrogen receptors were assessed, and possible polymer-leached components were identified by mass spectrometry. Embryo development beyond the two-cell stage was inhibited by PIC100, E-Shell200, and E-Shell300 and correlated to the released amount of diethyl phthalate and polyethylene glycol. Furthermore, all polymers (except PS) induced estrogen receptor transactivation. The released materials from PIC100 inhibited embryo cleavage across a confluent monolayer culture of oviduct epithelial cells and also inhibited oocyte maturation. These findings highlight the need for cautious use of engineered polymers for household 3D printing and bioengineering of culture and medical devices and the need for the safe disposal of used devices and associated waste.