Is Silicone Safe?
Silicone products are becoming increasingly popular and can be found in almost every kitchen, bathroom or nursery. But are they safe? Green Living Expert, Aida Garcia-Toledo, takes a look.
In the past couple of years silicone products have become ubiquitous. The bright colors, fun designs and practicality have made silicone products the go-to for many parents who are trying to minimize their family’s exposure to plastics some of which may contain endocrine disrupting and cancer causing chemicals.
Other alternatives to plastics like glass, wood, stainless steel and rubber have been in use for decades and have been tested at length, which is why they have been staples of eco living. Silicone however made its debut in the kitchen and in children’s products relatively recently which means not a lot of testing had been done.
What is silicone?
Silicone, not to be confused with silicon (a naturally occurring substance and the second most abundant element on Earth after oxygen) is a man made polymer created by adding carbon and/or oxygen to silicon.
Because it is malleable, soft and shatterproof it is surging in popularity. The FDA has approved it “ as a food-safe substance” and it can now be found in numerous baby bottle nipples, plates, sippycups, baking dishes, kitchen utensils, mats and even toys. But, is silicone safe?
For the most part, it is. However, there are some things to take into consideration.
- Exposure to heat and fat: While the FDA does indeed say that food grade silicone is safe and will not react with other materials or release hazardous compounds when heated, there are some studies that question how stable silicone is when exposed to extreme heat. These studies have found that small amounts of certain compounds called siloxanes can leach from silicone when it is exposed to both fat and temperatures over 300F. While the amount of siloxanes leaching is very small, these compounds have been linked to reproductive impairment, liver changes, and some may be even be endocrine disrupting. The good news is that absolutely no siloxanes have been found to leach from silicone products that are not exposed to very high heat and fat.
- Purity: Additionally, not all silicone is made equal. Some less expensive silicone products can contain fillers. When choosing silicone products make sure you choose 100% food grade silicone.
- Tested & lead-free: Finally, it is important to confirm that the silicone, especially brightly colored silicone, has undergone lead testing, since the colorants could be a source of lead. Most children’s product will specify they are BPA and lead free; if they do not ask the manufacturer.
Should I buy silicone products?
- For cooking: Food grade silicone is considered safe but it would be advisable to avoid placing in high heat situations (ie: oven and high heat dishwashers) until more studies are conducted. Opt for Glass, ceramic, or stainless steel when dealing with high temperatures.
- For babies and kids: Food grade silicone can be a safe and convenient alternative to plastic. Due to its flexibility, light weight, easy cleaning and hygienic and hypoallergenic properties (it has no open pores to harbor bacteria), it is especially convenient for snack containers, bibs, mats, protective sleeves and bath toys.
While I really like 100% natural rubber for teethers and pacifiers, silicone does have a solid track record for safe use in baby bottle nipples, pacifiers and teethers too