Fabricators and OEMs must address health, safety and environmental concerns when producing and handling composite materials. Their methods for maintaining a safe workplace include periodic training, adherence to detailed handling procedures, maintenance of current toxicity information, use of protective equipment (gloves, aprons, dust-control systems and respirators) and development of company monitoring policies. Both suppliers and OEMs are working to reduce emissions of highly volatile organic compounds by reformulating resins and prepregs and switching to water-dispersible cleaning agents.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has continued to strengthen its requirements to meet the mandates of the Clean Air Act Amendments, passed by Congress in 1990. Specifically, the agency's goal is to reduce the emission of hazardous air pollutants or HAPs, a list of approximately 180 volatile chemicals considered to pose a health risk. Some of the compounds used in resins and released during cure contain HAPs. In early 2003, the EPA enacted regulatory requirements specifically for the reinforced plastic composites industry, requiring emission controls using maximum achievable control technology, or MACT. The regulations took effect in early 2006.