Should I throw out these knives?
March 13, 2018 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Knives with ABS handles are losing their finish, should I get rid of them?

Bought a not terribly expensive knife set. The handles are made of ABS (Acrylonite Butadiene Styrene) and there was a warning on the box, mandated by California, that the Styrene is a carcinogen. Googling suggested that even though it is, ABS itself is really stable and used to make tons of things, including Legos.

The instructions suggested hand washing the knives and that perhaps they could be damaged in the dishwasher. Naturally eventually you put one in the dishwasher and when it doesn't appear to be damaged a lot more start ending up in there. I guess I was assuming the blade would be the part that would get damaged.

Now looking at them, the finish on the handles is graying or fading. The other handles are black. The other knives look black when wet but dries to gray. There's a noticable difference just looking at the block between the knives that have gone in and the knives that never get used.

I'm inclined to err on the side of caution and just trash the whole set, but I'm not finding any info online and wanted to see if people with more experience with ABS think this is just a cosmetic issue. Thank you.
posted by cali59 to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
"In 2011, the styrene, a high volume plastics chemical and animal carcinogen, was the focal point in a 'poison scandal' in the Danish media. Now a registry study of more than 72,000 employees from more than 400 companies that have been exposed to styrene during production of glassfibre reinforced plastics, has not found an increased incidence of a wide range of cancer types. " (from a February 2017 report, see here for more info). Your exposure level is even lower, I really wouldn't worry about it. If you can deal with the physical disfigurement of the knives, I'd keep them. Though I have to say your post makes it seem as if you'd like to have a reason to get rid of them.
posted by ubiquity at 6:25 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

The legislation around that "WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm" business is notorious for being so broadly written as to be basically meaningless. There are a lot of things that are technically carcinogens that aren't actually dangerous. This is one of them.

ABS is used for plumbing. It's suitable for making pipes that carry drinking water. Unless you are actually eating the handles of your knives, you are not at risk. Possibly hand-washing would help keep the finish from breaking down, but that's a cosmetic issue, not a safety one. Your knives are fine. I promise.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:28 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]

Yup, unless you're constantly sucking on the handles, don't worry about it. If you're trying to restore the color to that of the other handles, many thermoplastics respond well to wax.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:00 AM on March 13

Here is the full California list.

Don’t eat the knife handles. Or if you do, don’t cook them first. The California warning is so ubiquitous that it’s meaningless.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:03 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

Maybe cover the handles with Sugru?
posted by at at 10:43 PM on March 13

Sugru is not even food safe. ABS is.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:21 PM on March 17

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