Is Silicone Safe?
Silicone refers to a synthetic polymer made up of oxygen, hydrogen, silicon, and carbon. Not to be confused with silicon that is a natural element and metalloid, silicone is artificial and made with different ingredients where silicon is one of the ingredients. Silicone is used in toys, adhesives, and implants due to low toxicity. The Federal Drug Administration of USA labels silicone as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS). Although tagged as generally safe by a number of government food and drug agencies, silicone still brings up a question – Is Silicone Safe? Let’s find out.
A Little Info About Food Grade Silicone
According to some websites that promote silicone cooking wares it features benefits such as resistance to stain, odor, high temperature, scratch, hypoallergenic, and hygienic. Silicone is inert which means it does not leach with other chemicals that means any part of the material dissolves or mixes with the liquid.
How Safe Is Silicone
Silicone is safe for cooking (based on other internet sources)
- Several internet resources tell that silicone is more environmentally friendly than plastic.
- Silicone is safe for cooking because of its temperature resistance and inertness (1)
Silicone particles leach (based on other internet sources)
On the other hand, a study published in NCBI reported that silicone particles (siloxanes) (2) (3) leach when used with fatty foods. (4). The study concluded that the overall migration never exceeded 21 mg that is below the migration limit of 60 kg (2). Second, the abstract paper showed that non-tempered molds containing high amounts of volatile organic compounds tend to leak more siloxanes than the tempered molds.
Silicone and petroleum
Debra Lynn Dadd, an avid researcher of multiple chemical sensitivity reported that silicone might cause problems for people with petroleum sensitivity because petroleum products are used in the making of silicone. (5)
Silicone and formaldehyde
The same study by Dadd found that silicone exposed to higher temperature release formaldehyde due to methyl group contained in most silicones. Methyl oxidizes at 300 F or 149 C that leads to formaldehyde production. Nevertheless, silicone only releases 1% of formaldehyde. (6)
What are the safety tips for silicone cooking ware?
- Use pure silicone or 100% food grade.
- Avoid using silicone for high-temperature cooking and baking
- Twist the silicone to test for impurities. If after twisting it shows white, such silicone contains impurities. Reserve it for non-food usage
In Breast implants
Silicone breast implants are used to enlarge small breast size or to augment breasts removed after mastectomy. The FDA of the US recommended two breast implants filled with silicone gel: mentor memory gel and allergen natrelle. The FDA site summarized these findings (7):
- Silicone-filled breast implants are safe when used as per instructions.
- Silicone-filled breast implants have no connection with reproductive problems, breast cancer and disease of connective tissue.
- The longer the woman use breast implants the more likely she will experience local complications such as infection, rupture, scarring, wrinkling, and pain.
- For safety, MRI scans are the best method of detecting breast implant ruptures.
The National Center for Health Research reported in its article “Are Your Breast Implants Poisoning You?” that silicone breast implants may cause risks to long-term users. Such risks include irreversible and gradual muscle deterioration, autoimmune reaction, respiratory problems, and microbial contamination. Breast implants degrade over time thus leaking gel into the chest and spreading through the body. The leaked gel is hard to remove once it spreads throughout the body.
The Cleveland Clinic website (9) cited that the U.S Food and Drug Administration Advisory Council approved the silicone gel marketing. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services of the USA, concluded the following:
The good news:
- Silicone is generally safe.
- Silicone implants don’t cause diseases.
- Radiation doesn’t affect implants.
- Silicone implants have a connection with recurring or first breast cancer in women who used implants.
The bad news:
- Breast implants don’t last long.
- Many problems with implants are localized.
Dr. Tomer Avraham of Yale noted that silicone and saline implants are safe, based on currently available data. He further said that silicone breast implants, although appear safe, still have no 100 percent certainty and users must keep vigilance. (10)
In pet toys
Silicone is also the material of some pet accessories such as crates, toys, pet bowl, and grooming aids. Internet articles and sites suggest that silicone as materials for pet accessories are new and there’s not enough evidence, studies, and clinical trials to either prove silicone toxicity or disprove its overall safety. You should assume to take precautions and consult a veterinarian. Because silicone features low leaching to surrounding liquids it might be less toxic to dogs. Further, these substances are toxic to dogs: PVC, Latex, Phthalates, Lead, BPAA, Arsenic, Chromium, Melamine, Bromine, and Formaldehyde. Avoid things that contain these toxic substances or materials regarded not safe by experts.
In baby accessories
Manufacturers of baby accessories regard silicone as an alternative to BPA. Some websites tell that silicone does not leach and is totally inert but another site tells otherwise. Louisa Jane, a blogger, and single mother compiled some abstract or studies that tell silicone is not totally inert and it does leach. For her blog and outline of such studies – (11)
The Bottom line: Is Silicone Safe?
Various internet resources tell about the safeness of Silicone in cooking and baking. For safety concerns here are the key points:
Silicone as a food utensil
- The amount of the said chemical is negligible to cause harm to health, however, you should be concerned if you use silicone for baking above 300-350 F.
- Silicone is fine when used for baking below 400 C.
- Further, there are still needed studies to confirm the absolute safety of silicone for human and animal use.
Silicone as implants
Silicone does not cause major disease and its leak causes no symptoms or asymptomatic. The major concern for silicone implants is its localized effects such as rupture, implant scarring, and implant removal (an additional cost).
When you don’t have enough safety data about things, you should stick to precautions. The answer to the question – Is Silicone Safe? – Yes, it is safe but use with caution due to uncertainties of its prolonged use. If you use implants, follow your physician’s advice. If you use silicone for cooking, avoid using it in higher temperature cooking. And if you use silicone for pets and your baby, research and consult an expert.