Environmental Stress Cracking (ESC)

Environmental Stress Cracking (ESC) is the occurrence of cracking a polymer by contact with a liquid or vapour environment, combined with stress. Smithers Rapra performs ESC testing across a wide range of industries, providing comprehensive support for our clients whether they need an initial performance assessment or a failure investigation.

In environmental stress cracking, the presence of an ESC agent accelerates the effect of stress on a polymer material. 

An assessment of polymer resistance to potential ESC agents is undertaken during the design stage of development, where an appropriate test programme can measure the impact of these ‘primary environments’ on the material.

However many polymer failures also derive from environmental stress cracking, where ‘secondary environments’ have inadvertently come into contact with the item and causing it to fail.


Environmental Stress Cracking Testing

The testing process involves applying a known stress to the polymer under test conditions, and exposing it to the relevant ESC environment. Our experts can design a testing programme to assess your material’s performance when exposed to both primary and secondary stress cracking agents.

Stress cracking agents tested:

Industries we serve:

  • Paints
  • Adhesives
  • Cleaning agents
  • Lubricants
  • Plasticisers
  • Inks
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Leak detection fluid
  • Fruit essences
  • Vegetable oils


  • Medical and Pharmaceutical
  • Industrial
  • Oil and Gas
  • Construction
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace


Standards and Accreditation

We perform ESC testing to a range of international standards including ASTM D543 and ISO 220088-3:2008.

We also provide custom testing for this service – please contact us to discuss your requirements.


Additional Support

Our experts can provide advice on materials selection for your product or component, supported by test programmes to evaluate thermoplastics against anticipated ESC agents

Materials Selection > 

We also offer a failure analysis service; when ESC is the root cause of failure, we can provide advice on alternative polymers or design changes.

Failure Analysis >