We’ve all heard about silicone, and today’s article will highlight what silicone is made up of and what it can be used for.

What is silicone?

Silicone is a synthetic polymer made up of silicon, oxygen and other elements. It is a liquid or rubber-like plastic which has many useful properties, one of which is its low toxicity.

What is silicone used for?

On the industrial side, silicone has high heat resistance, making it excellent for use in kitchenware (silicone handles, oven mitts, tongs, non-stick pans, etc.). Silicone also provides good electrical insulation, and it is used to make casings for sensitive electronic equipment to shield them from electrical shocks.

Silicone is also commonly used as a sealant (e.g., silicone bond) in construction and plumbing jobs, and as a lubricant for automotive parts (e.g., silicone spray).

On the medical side, silicone can be found in a wide array of products ranging from the ever-popular silicone breast implants, fillers, catheters, contact lenses, shampoos, soaps and many other items.

Are there safety risks using silicone?

Silicone as a chemical is fairly stable, hence experts deem it safe if used according to proper guidelines.

Silicone breast implants have received US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval only because the liquid silicone is housed inside a “shell”. The shell keeps the silicone from moving throughout the body.

However, the FDA strongly warns against using liquid silicone as an injectable filler to contour body or facial parts such as the face, lips, breasts or buttocks. Interested readers can refer to the FDA article titled “The FDA Warns Against Injectable Silicone for Body Contouring and Enhancement” dated 11/14/2017 on its official website.

Injectable liquid silicone fillers are very dangerous as the liquid can move throughout the body and cause serious or even fatal health issues. This is because when the liquid silicone travels freely through blood vessels, it can build up and cause blockages in vital organs such as the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs or in the brain, which can ultimately cause a stroke and even death.

FDA approved derma fillers on the other hand are made from materials that are absorbed by the body, i.e., their effect is temporary.

Derma fillers are made from collagen which is a protein found in the skin, hyaluronic acid (a type of sugar present in the skin and cartilage), calcium hydroxylapatite (a mineral found in the teeth and bones), PLLA (a biodegradable artificial polymer commonly used in absorbable stitches), and PMMA (a non-biodegradable artificial polymer which is not absorbed by the body).

More details on derma fillers can be found in an article “Derma Fillers Approved by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health” dated 08/29/2018 on the FDA website.

How are we exposed to silicone?

As silicone is used in such a large variety of products from industrial to electrical to personal, here are a few instances where you will inevitably come into contact with silicone:

When silicone coated cookware is exposed high heat for extended periods of time, the coating melts and liquid silicone will leach into your food. Silicone coated cookware should never be used for cooking temperatures above 220°C. Regularly inspect your silicone coated cookware surfaces for signs of peeling, upon which the cookware must be immediately discarded.

Despite not having FDA approval, liquid silicone fillers are still being offered at some beauty salons, presumably because of the cheaper cost compared to derma fillers. The dangers arising from such practices have already been covered earlier in the article.

Accidental exposure to silicone can happen when shampoo or soap is accidentally ingested. Seek medical attention if this happens if a large quantity has been ingested.

There is always the chance of a silicone breast implant bursting or leaking during its lifetime, allowing liquid silicone to make its way throughout the body.

Scientists are investigating a possible link between BIA-ALCL, a rare type of cancer, and silicone breast implants.

In conclusion, when silicone is used in household, electronic or electrical products, it is relatively safe. However, exposure and absorption of silicone in liquid form by the human body through damaged or leaking breast implants, filler injections or ingestion can be very dangerous and even fatal.

We hope our readers have found this general article on silicone and its many uses informative. Our article should not be taken as medical advice which should be left to qualified medical practitioners to dispense.

By Aaron
17th September 2020 20:30

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