Is ABS Plastic Safe?

Table of Contents

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a plastic material used in injection molding. As its name might suggest, it is made up of three different materials – acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. This combination makes the plastic very strong with excellent resistance to impacts and other desirable properties. Acrylonitrile provides high chemical and heat resistance. Butadiene is tough and strong. Styrene adds rigidity and processability.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is also relatively low-cost, making it a popular option for manufacturing methods like injection molding. It also offers good resistance to heat (its melting point is 221 degrees Fahrenheit) and maintains its dimensional stability at lower temperatures. So, what else is important to know about this popular, versatile plastic material? Here are some more key facts to discover.

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ABS Material (Image Source: Shutterstock) 

Key Properties and Composition of ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, or ABS, is an opaque thermoplastic. It is an amorphous polymer composed of three monomers, acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene. ABS is most commonly polymerised through the emulsification process or the expert art of combining multiple products that don’t typically combine into a single product. 

When the three monomers are combined, the acrylonitrile develops a polar attraction with the other two components, resulting in a tough and highly durable finished product. The different amounts of each monomer can be added to the process to further vary the finished product. 

The versatility of ABS plastic properties contributes largely to its popularity across several industry sectors. From computer keyboard keys to LEGO, products made from ABS can be found all around the world in multiple domestic, commercial, and specialist settings.

ABS Material Properties

The acrylonitrile in ABS provides chemical and thermal stability, while the butadiene adds toughness and strength. The styrene gives the finished polymer a nice, glossy finish. 

ABS has a low melting point, which enables its easy use in the injection molding process and 3D printing. It also has high tensile strength and is very resistant to physical impacts and chemical corrosion, which allows the finished plastic to withstand heavy use and adverse environmental conditions. 

Additionally, ABS can be easily molded, sanded, and shaped, while its glossy surface finish is highly compatible with a wider range of paints and glues. ABS plastics take color easily, allowing finished products to be dyed in exact shades to meet precise project specifications.

Safety and Environmental Aspects of ABS

Many manufacturers and customers are placing sustainability higher and higher up their list of priorities. Once again, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is an ideal material to meet this laudable aim. Not only is it built to last, with its sturdy structure and durability meaning that it won’t need to be replaced or upgraded for a long time, but it is recyclable too. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic. This means that it can be melted back down to liquid form even after it has been turned into a rigid component by plastic injection molding process

So, after the item that has been made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) has served its purpose. It can be ground down, reprocessed, and turned into something else. This keeps more plastic out of landfills. It also cuts down on the need to produce new batches of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) from scratch to service additional manufacturing projects.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is Safe and FDA Certified

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is considered to be a safe plastic, as it is non-toxic, with no known adverse health effects reported as a result of long exposure to the material. The plastic does not leach, nor is it carcinogenic. It is considered safe enough to be used in the manufacture of children’s toys and other products.

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is also biocompatible, so can be safely used in medical applications like drug delivery systems, nebulisers, and equipment housings, although not for medical implants. The material is also FDC-certified. This adds reassurance when manufacturing kitchen appliances, utensils, and packaging for food and beverages (frozen and room temperature).

Applications Spanning Industries

ABS plastic offers several advantages, including high impact resistance, mechanical strength, chemical resistance, and aesthetic appeal. It can be easily molded, colored, and textured to meet specific requirements.

This material finds applications in various industries, including automotive (interior trim, body parts), consumer goods (electronics, appliances, toys), construction (pipes, fittings), electronics (enclosures, casings), and medical devices. Let’s have a deeper look at them!

1. Automotive Industry

ABS plastic is extensively used in automotive components such as interior trim, dashboards, door panels, and exterior body parts due to its impact resistance and aesthetic appeal.

2. Consumer Goods

From electronic housings and appliances to toys and sporting equipment, 3/8 ABS plastic sheet 4×8 finds widespread use in consumer goods thanks to its durability and customizable properties.

3. Construction

ABS plastic pipes and fittings are commonly used in plumbing and drainage systems due to their corrosion resistance and ease of installation.

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ABS construction wires (Image Source: Shutterstock)

4. Electronics

ABS plastic enclosures and casings provide protection for electronic devices while offering design flexibility and aesthetic appeal.

5. Medical Devices

ABS plastic sheet price is used in the manufacture of medical devices and equipment due to its biocompatibility and sterilizability.

ABS vs. Other Materials

PLA, ABS, and nylon are three of the most popular manufacturing materials. But how do the three compare? 


ABS, while weaker and less rigid than PLA, is a tougher, lighter filament more suitable for some applications beyond pure hobbyist. ABS is a bit more durable, is about 25% lighter, and has four times higher impact resistance. 

ABS does require more effort to print than PLA because it’s more heat resistant and prone to warping. This calls for a heated bed and an extruder that is 40-50 degrees Celsius hotter. 

While ABS is by no means a heat-resistant plastic, it has superior heat deflection temperature compared to PLA and nylon. The improved durability over PLA lends ABS to some more practical applications, such as prototyping and low-stress end-use parts.


PLA is a user-friendly thermoplastic with a higher strength and stiffness than both ABS and nylon. With a low melting temperature and minimal warping, PLA is one of the easiest materials to 3D print successfully. 

Unfortunately, its low melting point also causes it to lose virtually all stiffness and strength at temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius. In addition, PLA is brittle, leading to parts with poor durability and impact resistance.

Although PLA is the strongest of these three plastics, its poor chemical and heat resistance force it into almost exclusively hobbyist applications.


Nylon is a flexible, durable plastic with less strength and stiffness than both PLA and ABS. Its malleability lends it much more toughness than the other two, however, with an impact resistance ten times that of ABS. 

Additionally, nylon boasts good chemical resistance, which opens the possibility to more industrial applications. As with ABS, nylon requires extra care to print; it needs to be extruded at high temperatures and, due to its tendency to soak up moisture from the air, must be kept in a dry box.

Nylon is tougher and more resistant to chemicals than ABS and PLA, but its low strength and stiffness keep it from being widely used in the manufacturing industry.

Is ABS Plastic Safe for Food?

When choosing food-safe plastic for food and beverage handling, you should consider various available materials. Certain resins are more suited for packing, whereas others are preferable for direct contact with food.

ABS is considered a non-toxic thermoplastic. There are no harmful health consequences associated with ABS plastic have been revealed. This polymer has been safely used in many food processing and handling applications.

Some debate has arisen around ABS being used in the food and beverage industry since styrene (a toxic ingredient) used in the manufacture of it may be leached into goods. However, a study has shown that this plastic is unlikely to leach harmful chemicals. So, ABS plastic is food-safe.

ABS plays a vital role in the F&B industry. It is commonly used in the manufacture of food contact compliant indicates such as:

  • Refrigerator parts
  • Kitchenware items: mixing bowls, measuring cups, citrus squeezers
  • Kitchen appliances: coffee makers, mixers, blenders or food processors
  • Food packaging: lids and tubs for margarine containers, frozen desserts, prepared salads, and dairy products.

The temperatures at which the ABS polymer is applied for food contact range from low temperatures (refrigeration) for days or weeks, such as packaged dairy and meat goods, to rising temperatures approaching the boiling point of water for short periods of time, such as coffee machines.

Challenges and Considerations

Poor weather resistance: The material is susceptible to degradation when exposed to sunlight and UV radiation. It can become brittle and discolored over time, limiting its outdoor applications.

Flammability: ABS plastic is classified as a combustible material and has a relatively low resistance to fire. It tends to melt and burn, releasing potentially toxic fumes. Flame-retardant additives can be used to improve it’s fire resistance.

Limited heat resistance: The material has a relatively low melting point, typically around 200-240°C (392-464°F). It may deform or lose its mechanical properties at higher temperatures, restricting its applications.

Dimensional instability: ABS has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion compared to other engineering plastics. This can lead to dimensional changes with temperature variations, making tight tolerances challenging to maintain.

Regulations and Compliance

There are various regulations on ABS, especially on kid’s toys. These include: 

1. ASTM F963

All children’s toys manufactured or imported to the United States must be tested and certified to ASTM F963-Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. Consumers need to be confident that the toys they buy for children are of high quality and are safe, whether from harmful chemicals, or design faults that could cause injury. 

As a manufacturer or toy importer, ensuring the safety and quality of toys is of the utmost importance. Third-party testing and certification are required for toys designed or intended primarily for children 12 and under. 

Once you have identified the applicable requirements for your product, you must use a CPSC-accepted laboratory to perform testing to show that the product complies with the toy standard.

2. EN 71

The European Union’s Toy Safety Directive EN 71 outlines the safety criteria your product must meet before it can be sold in any EU market. The main purpose of these criteria is to protect the health and safety of children, parents, and caregivers.

In particular, the Directive covers health and safety aspects, such as physical, mechanical, electrical, and chemical risks, along with flammability potential, durability, small parts restrictions, and age-appropriate labeling.

Adopted in 2008 as part of the EU’s New Legislative Framework, it is one of several new directives aimed at bringing safer, higher-quality products to the market through the use of clearer guidelines for conformity assessment, lab accreditation rules, and CE marking prominence.

Role of Manufacturers and Suppliers

Supplier selection is the process by which firms identify, evaluate, and contract with suppliers. The supplier selection process deploys an enormous amount of a firm’s financial resources and plays a crucial role in the success of any organization. 

The main objective of the supplier selection process is to reduce purchase risk, maximize overall value to the purchaser, and develop closeness and long-term relationships between buyers and suppliers. Supplier selection criteria and methods are full of various analytical approaches. Some researchers have developed hybrid models by combining more than one type of selection method. 

A good supplier, on the other hand, will provide you with quality products and services that at least match, if not exceed, your business needs. They will deliver them reliably and consistently at the right time and for the right price. 

Some of the reputable ABS suppliers include: 

  • Mueller Corporation 
  • EuroPlas
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Food Containers made of ABS (Image Source: Shutterstock) 


ABS plastic offers you reasonable production costs, sturdy or firm products, and aesthetically pleasing parts. Its ability to withstand being heated and cooled multiple times also makes it highly suitable for recycling. 

This material is versatile in the range of color and surface texture options that can be achieved and it can be manufactured to a very high-quality finish. It is lightweight and suitable for a vast range of applications. 


Gary Liao

Gary Liao

Gary Liao is the Engineering Manager of TDL Company and has more than 20 years of mold design experience.

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