Is TPE Safe? 

Table of Contents

Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) is widely used to make various products. This material, introduced in the 1960s, is a combination of materials with thermoplastic and elastomeric properties. Because of its elasticity and durability, TPE is used to make sporting goods, electronics, medical items, consumer goods, construction materials, and automotive parts. 

Nonetheless, the internet is full of information claiming that TPEs are not safe. In fact, you may be lost amongst plastic alphabets such as TPV, TPU, and TPE, among others, trying to figure out which ones are safe or not. 

So, is this just a fad or a fact? In this article, we will explore TPE from a safety perspective. Read on to learn more about whether this material is safe or unsafe!

Is TPE Safe 1

Thermoplastic Elastomer Material (Image Source: Istockphoto)

Composition and Manufacturing of TPE

The simplest TPE materials are like ABA block copolymers, where A is a hard thermoplastic at room temperature. But it softens at elevated temperatures. For example, polystyrene, polyethylene, or polypropylene. 

On the other hand, B is a soft elastomer, for example, polydimethylsiloxane, polybutadiene, polyisoprene, or poly (ethylene-propylene)

After years of development, TPE can be categorized based on various aspects. These include constituent chemical building blocks, methods of polymerization, and processability. 

Generally, thermoplastic elastomers can be categorized into the following classes:

  • Thermoplastic Styrenic block copolymers (SBC/TPE-S)
  • Thermoplastic elastomer polyolefins (TPO/TPE-O)
  • Thermoplastic vulcanizates (TPV/TPE-V) or elastomeric alloys (EA)
  • Thermoplastic polyurethane elastomers (TPU/TPE-U)
  • Thermoplastic copolyester elastomers  (COPE/TEEE/TPE-E)
  • Thermoplastic polyamide elastomers (PEBA/COPA/TPE-A)

Each category has a slight difference in its chemistry. Based on these differences they offer many properties.

Main Properties of TPE

The properties achieved in any TPE material are governed by several factors. These include the chemistry, nature of the constituents, and their morphology. 

A specific property will vary with the relative proportions of hard and soft phases. This allows a range of TPE materials to be available within each TPE group.

Safety Profile of TPE

Various parts spanning from consumer goods to medical tubes need to be safe for human use. But, the problem lies in compounds used to make these products as manufacturers have to make use of non-toxic materials. 

The good news is that thermoplastic elastomers bring non-toxicity and safety to the manufacturing frontier. This material can be used to make products such as toys for kids. 

Unlike other polymers like PVC which contain unsafe chemicals for human use, TPE does not contain any harmful substances. This makes it suitable for medical and consumer goods applications as well as other components that need to be non-toxic. 

TPE is also hypoallergenic, making it ideal for any application that will result in direct contact with people’s skin. The other advantage is that it can also handle a lot of wear and tear, even in environments with strict cleaning regiments. 

Thermoplastic elastomer parts can stretch, bend, and handle regular sterilization. That makes them ideal for food production, clean rooms, and other environments where patient and consumer safety is absolutely essential.

Environmental Impact of TPE

The environmental footprint of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), specifically TPE  manufacturing, is a critical topic that warrants much attention. That said, understanding the environmental effects of the TPE manufacturing processes is crucial. 

TPE manufacturing emphasis on sustainability through the production of eco-friendly products. Additionally, manufacturers need to use sustainable TPE and put sustainable practices into practice in order to maintain the environment. 

Nonetheless, various factors contribute to the environmental impact of TPE, highlighting the necessity for thorough sustainability assessment and scrutiny of sustainable practices. TPE is also easy to shape and safe even for kids. Even with the potential for tiny rubber particles, they ensure safety.

Using TPE can help in waste reduction, notably reducing the environmental footprint of manufacturing. But it’s important to consider all aspects, including materials and rubber, before deciding on the best products for your production needs.

Is TPE Safe 2

Thermoplastics, Elastomers and Thermosets (Image Source: Istockphoto)

Applications and Sustainability

The TPE material is widely used in various industries. Some of these industries include:

1. Automotive

TPE is used for automotive applications due to its flexibility, excellent wear, chemical, and electrical resistance, and UV stability.

2. Consumer Products

TPE’s durability, flexibility, ease of molding, and chemical resistance are desirable for remote control covers and mobile phone cases.

3. Medical

TPE is flexible, biocompatible, lightweight, and chemically resilient. This makes it useful for breathing tubes, syringe seals, masks, and other airtight seals.

4. Industrial

TPE has excellent damping ability for applications such as anti-vibration mounts and springs.

5. Electronics

TPE is used for mobile phone components, cables, plugs, and sockets due to its electrical resistance and ability to be molded.

6. Sporting Goods

TPE is used for shoe soles, scuba flippers, and ski pole handles due to its flexibility, wear resistance, and UV stability. 

Sustainability of TPEs

Through bio-based content, TPEs have been able to achieve environmental-friendly and sustainability qualities. The bio-based TPE contents offer manufacturers various benefits. These sustainability benefits include: 

  • Reduced carbon footprint: Bio-based TPEs help reduce carbon footprint. This new variant of TPE is usually made of plant-based feedstocks such as sugarcane, corn, and soya beans, thus making it renewable. 
  • Reduced fossil fuel dependency: The bio-based TPEs are grown making them a readily available and sustainable resource. This material thus helps minimize reliance on fossil fuels which are harmful to the environment. 
  • Compostable and biodegradable: Bio-based TPEs can be naturally broken down over a period of time. This capability makes the material environmentally friendly when disposed of. 
  • Regulatory support: Based on the focus on a sustainable environment across the globe, many regulations have come up to curb unsustainable materials and uphold sustainable ones such as bio-based TPEs. This support has seen this material become highly adopted by manufacturers. 

Comparative Analysis with Other Materials

While TPE, PVC, and Silicone are distinct materials, the three share quite a lot in terms of similar benefits despite one being a rubber and the other two being plastics. By far the biggest difference between TPE, PVC, and silicone is in the material that is used to make them. 

The three compounds can be converted into soft materials that are colorable. PVC, TPE, and silicone are also excellent for outdoor applications thanks to their tremendous UV resistance and water resistance. This makes the three quite sought after for making durable and high-quality products for a plethora of industries. 

As far as sustainability is concerned, TPE is the most sustainable of the three because of its biodegradable nature. Unlike PVC and silicone, TPE can also be repurposed or recycled through extrusion and molding thus making it eco-friendly. 

On the other hand, PVC can be recycled, but not nearly as easily as TPE. Similar to recycling silicone, the method of reprocessing PVC is both more complicated and more difficult, which can be an immediate downside for manufacturers trying to meet sustainability goals.

Advantages of Using TPE

TPEs are associated with various advantages which include versatility, chemical resistance, flame retardancy, latex-free nature, and minimal compounding requirements. This makes this material suitable for different use cases. Below, we will explore these advantages of TPEs. 

1. Versatility

Thermoplastic elastomers are very versatile hence easy to customize. This nature makes it best suited for manufacturing a wide range of jelly-like to hard parts. It can also be molded into different sizes and shapes. 

2. Chemical Resistance

TPE possesses natural chemical resistance and flame retardant. This makes the material ideal for making parts that can be used in adverse chemical and thermal environments. The chemical and flame retardancy also contribute to the quality and durability of TPE products. 

3. Latex-Free Nature

Unlike most rubbers which contain latex that can irritate latex-intolerant individuals, TPE is naturally latex-free. This property of the material suits applications in healthcare products that have direct contact with the body. Additionally, TPE is soft to the touch and thus creates a pleasant feel. The material is also easy to sterilize and hence can be used in the healthcare, food, and beverage sectors. 

4. Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness 

The fact that TPE requires less energy to manufacture, makes it cost-effective in the manufacturing sector. This material also requires minimal and shorter fabrication times compared to other materials which further reduces the costs. 

Is TPE Safe 3

Process of recycling TPE (Image Source: Researchgate)


Thermoplastic elastomers are an excellent choice from a manufacturing and environmental standpoint due to their versatility and recyclability. TPE materials made from non-toxic recyclable plastics are highly eco-friendly. 

TPE is also naturally latex-free and is safe for patients who are sensitive or allergic to latex. Depending on how it’s processed, TPE can be soft to the touch making it a good choice for healthcare products that make direct contact with the patient, since that pleasant feeling can make a difference in the patient’s comfort.  

As TPE evolves, it is imperative for you to understand its advantages and applications in the various industries. This will help you optimize your TPE manufacturing processes as well as help cut production costs. 


Gary Liao

Gary Liao

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

Contact Our Experts

Send us a Email, we will feedback to you ASAP!