Bioabsorbable polymer implants may provide a viable alternative to metal implants for internal fracture fixation. One of the potential difficulties with absorbable implants is the possible toxicity of the polymeric degradation products especially if they accumulate and become concentrated. Accordingly, material evaluation must involve dose–response toxicity data as well as mechanical properties and degradation rates. In this study the toxicity and rates of degradation for six polymers were determined, along with the toxicity of their degradation product components. The polymers studied were poly(glycolic acid) (PGA), two samples of poly(L-lactic acid) (PLA) having different molecular weights, poly(ortho ester) (POE), poly(ϵ-caprolactone) (PCL), and poly(hydroxy butyrate valerate) (5% valerate) (PHBV). Polymeric specimens were incubated at 37°C in 0.05 M Tris buffer (pH 7.4 at 37°C) and sterile deionized water. The solutions were not changed during the incubation intervals, providing a worst-case model of the effects of accumulation of degradation products. The pH and acute toxicity of the incubation solutions and the mass loss and logarithmic viscosity number of the polymer samples were measured at 10 days, 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks. Toxicity was measured using a bioluminescent bacteria, acute toxicity assay system. The acute toxicity of pure PGA, PLA, POE, and PCL degradation product components was also determined. Degradation products for PHBV were not tested. PGA incubation solutions were toxic at 10 days and at all following intervals. The lower molecular weight PLA incubation solutions were not toxic in buffer but were toxic by 4 weeks in water. The other materials did not produce toxic responses during the 16-week exposures. The degradation products components in order from most toxic to least toxic are: lactic acid (PLA), ϵ-caproic acid (PCL), glycolic acid (PGA), cyclohexane dimethanol (POE), propionic acid (POE), 1,6 hexane diol (POE), pentaerythritol dipropionate (POE), and pentaerythritol (POE). © 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.