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What is Silicone and is it Toxic?

What is Silicone and is it Toxic?Silicone has quickly become a household name in the fall-out of toxic plastics. Its starring role begins right away as we introduce it to our babies from the day they’re born. It’s been touted as inert and versatile, but just what is silicone and is it toxic?

We decided to give it a thorough background check.  In the end, our research leads us to believe that food grade silicone used outside the body for food contact is chemically inert, stable, won’t leach into food, or off-gas.  And Health Canada confirms what we’ve found: silicone does not react with food or drinks or produce any hazardous fumes.

Now let’s take a serious look at that background check…

What is Silicone Anyway?

Here’s a simple breakdown courtesy of Beth from My Plastic Free Life:

It is a man-made polymer, but instead of a carbon backbone like plastic, it has a backbone of silicon and oxygen. (Note that I’m using two different words here: silicone is the polymer and silicon, spelled without the “e” on the end, is an ingredient in silicone.) Silicon is an element found in silica, i.e., sand, one of the most common materials on earth. However, to make silicone, silicon is extracted from silica (it rarely exists by itself in nature) and passed through hydrocarbons to create a new polymer with an inorganic silicon-oxygen backbone and carbon-based side groups. What that means is that while the silicon might come from a relatively benign and plentiful resource like sand, the hydrocarbons in silicone come from fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas. So silicone is a kind of hybrid material.” (Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, p. 277)

Safety and Recyclability of Silicone

In her article Spotlight on Silicone, Mindful Momma explains that silicone has a good track record of safety.  As for recyclability, she says “Silicone does not decompose but it is recyclable – although probably not through your city-wide recycling program. You’ll probably have to drive to a specialty recycling facility – but then again, silicone is very durable so you won’t have to worry about disposal for a long time.”

One of our favorite consumer advocates, Debra Lynn Dadd, explains that silicone is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste.  So while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.

Silicone Safety in Dishes and Cookware

We do feel very comfortable recommending silicone dishes as a safe option that won’t leach harmful chemicals into foods.  Silicone dishes are a great alternative to plastics containing known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Its use in baby bottle nipples stretches back over 30 years, standing head and shoulders above nitrosamine-tainted synthetic latex nipples that break down quickly under repeated exposure to heat, moisture and detergents.

Now silicone cookware, on the other hand, may turn out to be be non-problematic but we’re waiting for more definitive research on that front before making a firm recommendation.

A Little More Background on Silicone

Stacey Feeley, co-founder of Silikids, gave us some great background on the benefits of food grade silicone:

  • Can handle temperature extremes, transferring easily from freezer to microwave
  • Flexible, durable and shatter resistant
  • Petroleum-free
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Odor and stain resistant
  • Hygienic and hypoallergenic with no open pores to harbor bacteria
  • Does not fade or scratch

Tips for Choosing and Using Silicone Dishes

  • Be sure to choose dishes made from 100% food grade silicone. Fillers can compromise the quality and durability of silicone.
  • Confirm that all colorants used are not BPA-based and that lead testing has been done, especially for brightly colored products.
  • Don’t be fooled by thermoplasticized rubber (TPR) dishes. They look and feel much the same, but TPR isn’t as durable and doesn’t tolerate high heat like silicone does. Products like measuring cups made from TPR often have a rigid plastic skeleton and may warp when exposed to heat.
  • Be aware that phosphate-free dishwashing detergents may cause silicone dishes to end up with water spots or hold onto certain smells/tastes. It’s no big deal, just add some white vinegar or a non-toxic rinse aid like Ecover to your wash cycle.

There are times when durability and convenience win out, leaving my glass and stainless steel dishes in the cupboard. So given the choice between plastics made with carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals, I’d opt for silicone anytime.

PIN IT!

What is Silicone and is it Toxic?

PAID ENDORSEMENT & MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: This website may contain sponsored articles with affiliate links to help support our research and the free content we provide. All information provided is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions expressed here are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.  Please read our Terms of Use for more information.

 

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Alicia Voorhies is a Registered Nurse who decided to take a break to relax and enjoy her young kids after 13 years of working with disabled adults. She began to explore the world of alternative health ideas and was immediately attracted to the mysteries of endocrine disruptors and their effect on children. In 2007 she founded The Soft Landing along with her mom and sisters to help parents provide a safe, natural home for their children without drowning in an overwhelming sea of information.

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  • Echo

    I would like to hear more of a discussion on why silicone is purported to be so great and “safe”? How is it different (food-grade silicone) than the silicone that was so problematic with leaking breast implants? How much testing (independent of course) has been done?

  • Echo

    I would like to hear more of a discussion on why silicone is purported to be so great and “safe”? How is it different (food-grade silicone) than the silicone that was so problematic with leaking breast implants? How much testing (independent of course) has been done?

  • softlanding

    Hi Echo,

    That’s a great question. When we began looking for info on silicone, that was our first question. We found several studies that seemed to show no link between health issues and silicone breast implants. One such study is “Women with Silicone Breast Implants Have No Increased Risk of Death from Most Causes” completed by the National Cancer Institute.

    Our research always begins with the same basic question, “Does this material contain BPA, PVC or phthalates, known toxins/endocrine disruptors?” If not, we move to the next step and look into the material’s background (which we shared in the above article).

    Honestly, when we look the myriad of plastics out there, it’s easy to see that we’re basically having to make a choice between the least toxic options. We’re surrounded by plastic – even when we use glass containers, we use plastic lids to seal them for storage.

    Nothing is clear cut. We just have to give our due diligence in finding the best answer we can, then make the safest choice for our families.

    By the way, this discussion isn’t meant to include silicone cookware. We’ve haven’t delved into that arena completely.

    Best,

    Alicia

  • Emilee

    I too would like to see some more independent testing done. But at the same time I don’t think that it is necessarily a “green” choice. As said in the article it is not easily/readily recyclable, unless maybe you find a mail in center. But also I’d like to know what the processing/manufacturing entails and what raw products are used. I’m really trying to not only get our family using “safe” products but products that are made to be easily recycled, or from recycled materials, using environmentally minded processing, and if not recyclable – biodegradable. hmm maybe we need a bamboo bottle…HAHAHAH J/K. But in the case of Bottles, I think we need to be supporting BREASTFEEDING more as well, than just supporting all these gazillion different styles and brands of bottles, that is the ULTIMATE, SAFE & GREEN choice!!! :)

  • Emilee

    I too would like to see some more independent testing done. But at the same time I don’t think that it is necessarily a “green” choice. As said in the article it is not easily/readily recyclable, unless maybe you find a mail in center. But also I’d like to know what the processing/manufacturing entails and what raw products are used. I’m really trying to not only get our family using “safe” products but products that are made to be easily recycled, or from recycled materials, using environmentally minded processing, and if not recyclable – biodegradable. hmm maybe we need a bamboo bottle…HAHAHAH J/K. But in the case of Bottles, I think we need to be supporting BREASTFEEDING more as well, than just supporting all these gazillion different styles and brands of bottles, that is the ULTIMATE, SAFE & GREEN choice!!! :)

  • Emilee

    I too would like to see some more independent testing done. But at the same time I don’t think that it is necessarily a “green” choice. As said in the article it is not easily/readily recyclable, unless maybe you find a mail in center. But also I’d like to know what the processing/manufacturing entails and what raw products are used. I’m really trying to not only get our family using “safe” products but products that are made to be easily recycled, or from recycled materials, using environmentally minded processing, and if not recyclable – biodegradable. hmm maybe we need a bamboo bottle…HAHAHAH J/K. But in the case of Bottles, I think we need to be supporting BREASTFEEDING more as well, than just supporting all these gazillion different styles and brands of bottles, that is the ULTIMATE, SAFE & GREEN choice!!! :)

  • softlanding

    Hi Echo,

    That’s a great question. When we began looking for info on silicone, that was our first question. We found several studies that seemed to show no link between health issues and silicone breast implants. One such study is “Women with Silicone Breast Implants Have No Increased Risk of Death from Most Causes” completed by the National Cancer Institute.

    Our research always begins with the same basic question, “Does this material contain BPA, PVC or phthalates, known toxins/endocrine disruptors?” If not, we move to the next step and look into the material’s background (which we shared in the above article).

    Honestly, when we look the myriad of plastics out there, it’s easy to see that we’re basically having to make a choice between the least toxic options. We’re surrounded by plastic – even when we use glass containers, we use plastic lids to seal them for storage.

    Nothing is clear cut. We just have to give our due diligence in finding the best answer we can, then make the safest choice for our families.

    By the way, this discussion isn’t meant to include silicone cookware. We’ve haven’t delved into that arena completely.

    Best,

    Alicia

  • Violet

    I would love to see a post about silicone cookware (muffin molds, cooking utensils, etc.) I have all different kinds of black nylon (?) utensils. I am ready and willing to replace them all but I just need a good alternative!
    Any ideas?
    -Violet

  • Violet

    I would love to see a post about silicone cookware (muffin molds, cooking utensils, etc.) I have all different kinds of black nylon (?) utensils. I am ready and willing to replace them all but I just need a good alternative!
    Any ideas?
    -Violet

  • http://thesoftlanding.com thesoftlanding

    Hi Violet,

    That's a great question and one we get quite often! We've been researching and researching silicone cookware for the last six months or so. We just want to be really sure about our conclusions regarding its safety before offering our opinion.

    So far we haven't found any evidence to sway us one way or another. Silicone is definitely high heat durable and free of know endocrine disruptors (BPA, phthalates), but not many scientific studies have been done on the use of silicone as bakeware at high temperatures.

    The jury's still out for us at this point. There is some great discussion on the topic on Debra Lynn Dadd's website at http://www.dld123.com/q&a/index.php?cid=24 and at Care2.com http://www.care2.com/greenliving/is-silicone-ba

    We'd love to hear everyone else's thoughts!

    Alicia

  • SafeMommy

    What we do know is that several platcs are proven to be Harmful.let's not focus on what's bit known about silicone but use common sense by not overdoing the heating for sterilization , etc

  • Jodi

    Hi Violet,
    I just replaced all of my nylon and plastic utensils with Bamboo ones. I love them. They are very durable and work just as well. They are natural and nice looking. You can get them many places…I got mine from the Phalzgraff website and also from Pampered Chef. Both have quality bamboo utensils.

  • http://www.wristbandsnow.com/ Rubber bracelets

    this kind of bracelets that made in silicone is best suited for kids since its elastic and will return on its original size after it was enlarged.

  • Lindsay

    I have recently purchased the below noted take-away mug.

    http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2009/10/01/reusable

    It has a silicone lid. My first concern was whether or not this was harmful, as I have chosen to eradicate all plastic storage containers in my house, and replaced them with glass ones.

    Does anyone have any information? Silicone is supposed to be non-leaching and non smelling, however mine does smell a bit…

  • Black Mold Removal

    Silicon is as well as harmful like Black mold now a days!

  • recycledgifts

    yes i agree watch out for it. :) be safe

  • http://www.moldremoval.org/ Black Mold Removal

    Silicone has quickly become a household name in the fall-out of toxic plastics. Its starring role begins right away as we introduce it.

  • Sandra

    I agree about the smelliness of silicone. For all it's hype, it does give off a plasticy smell, which I find suspect.

    • socialblogsite

      After many years of research, Hulda Clark (if you think “quack”, this website is not for you) she recommends “if it smells, it’s dangerous”.

      I just bought an ozonator, and the silicone hose smells. The ozone will be the first thing that will take that out, whatever it is, but I don’t want it to go straight inside me, so I’ll run it a few times with water to extract the leaching material, before to drink anything from it.

      I recommend doing so if you have an ozonator. Hulda Clark’s son, in an email campaign, said he run an ozonator all day in some exposition, using water from their personal drinking water bottles, and at the end of the day a sticky film/layer of plasticizer was found floating on the water and a ring on the glass container, at the water level, which wouldn’t come off with nothing!

      It’s so sad that today victims of metal leaching (e.g. hip implants) are being compensated for it while Hulda Clark said it years ago and was discredited by it.

      She tested many products with her controversial “synchrometer”which you can build at home, while only profitable studies realized with expensive devices people can’t build (so they pay) are the ones accepted in court.

      Just watch the attorney’s TV ads seeking for victims and you’ll see. They are making money, while she is being considered quack for those claims, discrediting 98% of her research on cancer which can’t be contradicted by any oncologist with good knowledge of pathogens and nutrition.

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  • http://www.moldremoval.net Mold Removal Gainesville

    I agree about the smelliness of silicone.I have recently purchased the below noted take-away mug.I would love to see a post about silicone cookware

  • http://www.moldremoval.org/ Mold Testing Illinois

    That’s a great question. When we began looking for info on silicone, that was our first question.

  • Gfd4564

    I dont trust the goverment. These are the same people who put you away for 20 years for simple pot yet allow chemically enhanced tobacco to be sold practically everywhere. One may have possibly harmful effects and may be habit forming and not addictive while the other is in kin to heroin in power of the mental addiction and as it requires constant dosing – is very very harmful to be getting that much smoke and tar.

    So rule of thumb – if nature didn’t make it – good chance it isn’t good for you. I say go glass all the way. Then rubber. I would avoid any and all plastics – especially with babies and food. If it causes adult fish to change their gender – yeah! It may not have such a strong/obvious effect on us but only a little bit of poisoning doesn’t exactly make you well off. As for the boobs- get pregnant for them. Or just eat a lot. Besides you must not have ever experienced back pain if you want to go and throw a ton of weight on your chest. If it is for pleasing men – your other part will work far better and all men really want is that you use them more often. They could give a damn about such details.

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  • Lorenza

    I just bought an eco coffee cup with a silicone lid. It was made in China. The silicone lid tastes bitter and has an acrid smell. So, though I really like the idea of it, It’s sort of freaking me out and I’ll probably return it. I thought it was supposed to be inert? If it’s inert, why does it taste and smell so bad?

    • APNurse

      It’s probably not *just* the lid. The glaze could be contaminated as well. Don’t let the corporate name “eco” fool you – the Chinese have been caught dumping all kinds of toxic filler into metal products, glass products, dyes, ceramic products, electronic products, you name it, they have been caught making it toxic……..including dog food, cat food, animal treats, and any kind of human food (including baby food) you can think of.

      We just have to try and get our hands on non-GMO seeds, make our own non-pesticide/herbicide-contaminated compost and mulch, and going back to drying/canning – in glass not made in China.

  • boo

    After searching for months, I just purchased an electric tea kettle.They claim the water never comes into contact with plastic, however there is one silicone gasket. Is it safe to boil silicone?

  • Cgoldman

    Not to good for my allergy to rubber. I could’nt figure out why I was getting Ill until I realized my kitchen cooking utensils had silicone handles!! I thought silicone was plastic. Ceg

  • Tiffany Adele Scott

    Hello, I see below that in a comment it states silicone is free of endocrine disruptors such as BPA and phthalate, but when I was about to purchase silicone food grade caulk, it stated it contains “PVC” … can anyone explain why food grade silicone would contain PVC if it is supposed to be safe. This makes me second guess all of this research. Please help!

    • http://thesoftlanding.com/ The Soft Landing Sisters

      Hi Tiffany,

      I’ve never researched caulking before, but I know it’s common for home decor and repair products to contain PVC for its flexibility and long lasting durability. Such a bummer – and a whole new product to be concerned about!

      Would you mind posting the link here so we can add it to our list of items to research in the near future?

      Thanks!

      Alicia

  • APNurse

    Another endocrine disruptor – toxic at much lower levels than BPA – is tritan, manufactured by Eastman. Eastman actually sued the independent labs that ran studies proving the link between tritan and breast cancer, endocrine, brain, liver, and DNA/RNA modification (leading to passing on cancer predisposition to generations). Independent testing has found evidence that it is worse than BPA – but industry-funded lab tests are done with – every one should love this tactic – a type of rat “the Charles River Sprague Dawley” , which oddly does not respond to synthetic hormones like BPA or Tritan, and therefore will “prove” that EVERY synthetic hormone “does nothing”.

    Tritan – look it up. You won’t find much about it that is not positive. Eastman has hired the former tobacco corporation attorneys and propagandists to fight against getting the information about it’s toxicity made public. You can check this latest edition of Mother Jones – to see the article “Are Any Plastics Safe?” by Mariah Blake in the March+April 2014 issue online, you need to subscribe; otherwise, if you don’t subscribe to the print version, maybe your library does (it should).

  • Ann

    Thank you for that information!

    • http://thesoftlanding.com/ The Soft Landing Sisters

      You’re welcome Ann! So glad you found it helpful. ~Alicia

  • boots

    I was wondering about this a couple of days ago as I put a batch of bran muffins into the oven. Thanks for your timely article. I have silicone pans that have seen a lot of use for over a decade and are still durable. I hope my newer cupcake/muffin liners will serve me just as long. Found an online store Life Without Plastic but it’s just so expensive to change everything over. Got my first order a few weeks ago so it’s a start.

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