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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, toxin-free and versatile. But just what is silicone and is it really as great as it sounds?

We decided to give silicone a thorough background check. We started with Wise Geek, The Silicone Zone and Mindful Momma, then tapped into our favorite resource, Stacey Feeley of Silikids.

Wise Geek explains that silicone is often confused with silicon, which is an abundant natural element found in the earth. Silicone does contain silicon and harnesses many of its mineral properties and is composed of both organic and inorganic polymers.

The Silicone Zone gives a great background on silicone:

Silicone is a class of inorganic rubbers of various compositions and formulas made by linking silica atoms. Silicone was developed for its superior reliability, long life, and extreme temperature adaptability and stability. It will not become misshapen or break down due to extreme temperature exposure. Silicones can be found in liquid and solid form depending upon uses and curing process.

Micaela of Mindful Momma answers questions of safety and recyclability in her article Spotlight on Silicone.

Is silicone safe to use with food?

In terms of safety, silicone seems to have a good track record. It is an inert material, therefore it does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes. I did a lot of searching on the web and there appear to be no known health hazards associated with use of silicone kitchen products – even with baking. I just hope that’s still true in 10 years…
Is silicone recyclable?

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.

So far, the only thing I’ve seen made from recycled silicone are those stretchy bracelets that people wear for every cause known to man…but I bet there are some industrial uses for it too.

Q & A with Stacey
Why did you choose Silicone for the Silikids line of baby products?

Silicone is hygienic and hypoallergenic. Its rubber like material is safe, durable and pliable, there are no open pores to harbor bacteria.
Silicone is easy to use and to clean. Microwave or freezer safe/dishwasher and washer & dryer friendly.
Silicone does not fade or scratch.
Silicone is extreme temperature resistant.

What is the difference between food grade and medical grade silicone?

Basically, the main difference is that medical grade is specifically made so that it can stay in the body for more than 30 days. The textures vary a bit as well. Most pacifiers and bottle nipples are be made out of medical grade silicone, while cookware and food containers are made from food grade silicone. We like to use food grade because it holds up better when boiled, microwaved put in the dishwasher, etc.
Should we be concerned about using pacifiers and nipples that are made from food grade silicone?

I wouldn’t be concerned with a food grade pacifier. Many silicone spoons are as well made from food grade silicone. Either way, silicone is a very safe material.

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