SILICONE WARS: Is Silicone Rubber Safe?

Silicone Pint Glasses

Brightly coloured silicone has been trending for years as a safer and more aesthetically pleasing alternative to Teflon or plastic products. Being curious types, it’s prompted us at Fairware to question: Just how safe is it, really?

Silicone is heat-resistant synthetic compound made from naturally occurring resources including carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in combination with silicon atoms. The rubbery material has been popping up rapidly on store shelves, particularly in the form of cookware, water bottle nozzles, and a variety of other products that come in direct contact with food and drink. Manufacturers maintain that is it safe, and Health Canada backs the material as having no reaction with food and beverages.

There are plenty of bright sides to this versatile material, including its low toxicity, low chemical reactivity, and low thermal conductivity. It also emits no hazardous fumes and it is non-biodegradable, making it technically recyclable—though many recycling centres unfortunately still refuse to accept it. The leading manufacturers of silicone-based products belong to four non-profit organizations that deal exclusively with promoting the safety of silicone from a health, safety, and environmental perspective.

Despite the green light from Health Canada and its four non-commercial organizations, there are still concerns. The use of silicone in cookware is a relatively recent, and there remains very little research to debunk worries of possible long-term side-effects on health and on the environment. And the stamp of approval from Health Canada is, frankly, a little dubious. Non-stick Teflon cookware, for instance, has been deemed safe for humans by the government agency, despite causing cancer in test rats.

So, there is really no concrete answer to the question of safety surrounding silicone – while it is clearly a less toxic material than many on the market, questions remain. It is our hope that the increasing use of silicone in products will prompt further and more stringent testing—and that consumers will continue to demand more insight into the products they buy.