By SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
In October of 2010 we raised the question, “Is Silicone Safe?” If you haven’t read this article, we suggest you check it out. One reader (Jamey Lacy July) recently commented on this article, and we listened!
Her comment begins like this, “I have been writing professionally for over 30 years (since my teens) and spent 5 years researching silicone implants (various types) and interviewing scientists, doctors, & reviewing hundreds of studies. Spoke at the IOM (Institute of Medicine) in DC as well on this topic. Findings: Silicone is manufactured with 30 to 40 chemicals that YES, over time do leach out into surrounding environment.”
So, as you can only imagine, we were on a mission to hear more about what she knows. The following is our exclusive interview with Jamey Lacy July on silicone safety, the chemicals used in silicone, what types of silicone are out there and the safest alternatives.
A Little Background on Jamey and Her Silicone Breast Implants
This is a little about my experience in researching this information for a book I wrote. I was inspired by the fact that when I was very young (19) I had small silicone implants on the premise that eventually, once I had my children, I would have my own breast tissue removed and larger implants in place of my natural tissue. At that time, I had lost a grandmother to breast cancer and both my Mom and older sister had to have biopsies (the sister went on to have breast cancer some years later). We ALL had fibrous cystic breast disease – which is to have a lot of cysts in the breast that are often difficult to differentiate from cancerous cysts.
My mom and I were told the devices were “FDA approved” (when they were not) by the board certified plastic surgeon. He told us they “would last a lifetime,” (even though the plan was to eventually have the devices replaced once I had my children and had breastfed them). HOWEVER, within 5 months after my daughter was born, I began to have hardening of one breast and had to quit breastfeeding. I later found out from another plastic surgeon that the implant had not just “contracted” (which was a very typical outcome) but it had also ruptured – so I had unknowingly fed my baby girl breast milk that may have been tainted by silicone gel and the many chemicals that are used to make the silicone!
Years later, after coming into contact with hundreds of women who had similar experiences and, who also had children who had a familiar constellation of health problems after being breastfed by their implanted Moms, I decided to write a book on the topic. During the course of interviews and research, I learned so many awful truths about the potential dangers of breast implants not only for the patients but for their babies. This all correlates with any silicone device that is used continuously because over time they all do break down and I believe the worst concern are the chemicals used in making silicone.
I am certified Fitness Specialist and “Pure” (Clean) Food (Shopping & cooking) Coach and have been writing and speaking on women’s health issues for 27 years (see bios). I spoke at the IOM (Institute of Medicine) in DC about my experience and my research findings.
Below is a tip I sent to The Huffington Post regarding the recent “news” that silicone breast implants are “safe.”
My message to Huffington Post:
“I did five years of extensive research (interviewing Scientists, Doctors, Researchers, former implant industry leaders and hundreds of patients) for a book I was writing on silicone and saline breast (and other) implants.
Over the course of that research, I discovered internal documents by silicone manufacturer, Dow Corning, that showed they did at least 2 separate LONG TERM Studies on groups of women implanted with their devices. Studies were to be for 20 yrs. but were aborted after 12 years due to overwhelming problems the patients had after receiving the implants.
100% had to have their original implants removed due to ruptures and other serious side effects. Many of these women had to have surgery for ovarian cysts and hysterectomies and developed other inexplicable health problems (“study patients” were in their late 20’s/late 30’s).
FDA knew but media & public were never informed! Nothing changed – devices causing same problem/studies geared to hide the worst.”
Silicone Safety: Is Silicone Safe For Our Babies?
Can you give us your thoughts on silicone safety in general please?
I think that the FDA has dropped the ball for consumers on stating that silicone gel or any silicone implants are safe for long term usage.
Nothing significant has changed since they placed the moratorium on silicone gel implants back in the early 90’s, except hundreds of thousands more women want, and are getting the implants each year, and that’s a LOT of money for the manufacturers, chemical companies and plastic surgeons!
The devices still break down over time and 100% of implanted women will need replacement surgery for their failed implant devices within 10 years! I believe (as many doctors, researchers, implanted and formerly implanted patients[do]) that silicone is NOT safe and should not be placed in the body because over time it breaks down and leaches into the tissue and bloodstream and since it’s not organic can create inflammatory (foreign body reaction) responses which can then lead to other health problems.
I was a competitive bodybuilder, fitness & swimwear model in super physical condition. Then, within just a few years after one of my silicone implants ruptured spontaneously (no impact to implant or chest); I began to develop CTD, chronic fatigue, cycles of rashes, low-grade fevers, muscle aches and tightening of tendons and intense nerve pain.
It took 21 doctors & medical specialists over several years before I was told by a plastic surgeon (who was a friend & client) and a rheumatologist that my health problems correlated with my silicone implants. (I could not schedule surgery quick enough to get them out!) Many of my symptoms subsided but I was still left with some significant autoimmune conditions and a compromised immune system that’s led to other diseases.
You mentioned that there are 40 chemicals used to make silicone. What are they?
Here are some of the chemicals: Methylene Chloride aka Dichloromethane. This breaks down in the body so blood cannot carry oxygen. It metabolizes carbon monoxide poisoning. Platinum: I was in a clinical study where implanted women were tested for platinum in their tissues, blood, hair and nails. All of the women in the group showed platinum in their system but my platinum levels were the highest! Toluene, Xylene, Freon, Phenol, Benzene (a known carcinogen). Acetone, etc.
Why is there absolutely no information available regarding silicone’s safety? It seems like all NEW ‘safe alternatives’ to PVC/BPA plastic is silicone. However, we cannot find ANY reports that show that silicone has tested to be a safe substance for our children and babies.
This is a serious problem that has affected women and children since medical research began; the majority of studies are done on men and to my knowledge, there have been no published studies on the affects of silicone (and the chemicals used in making it), on children. However, there HAVE been thousands of reports by women who had their babies while implanted and/or, breastfed their newborns while implanted, that their children have experienced a repeating pattern of health problems.
These companies have done some “in-house” studies but the results only point to the risks of these devices, so the manufacturers simply do not release any of these studies. Much like the 2 long term clinical studies done on women in the 1970’s and 1980’s as in-house research, where 50 women were implanted and supposed to be followed for 20 years. The outcome of these devices in these women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s was so bad, that they (the researchers at Dow Corning) discontinued the study by the 12th year.
ALL (100%) of the patients had to have their implants replaced due to rupture and/or severe contracture and other problems. An unusually high number of these women had to have hysterectomies and some had to have organs removed and many developed immune-related health problems. My suggestion is to write or phone the manufacturers who make silicone pacifiers and nipples and ask them what chemicals are used in making these devices for babies. Make them fax/e-mail a document (response) with their answer so they can be held accountable for their answers!
You mention being an expert in Breast Implant Silicone. Isn’t that a completely different kind of silicone than used in infant and baby products?
No, not really. The main “difference” is the various types of thickness and pliability. For instance, Saline breast implants have a silicone gel shell which is very close to the consistency of pacifiers – same pliability just a little denser.
When I interviewed Thomas Talcott, a former engineer for Dow Corning, who worked with the development of these implants, I asked him in 2000, if anything had “changed” as far as new silicone formulas that wouldn’t leach chemicals and silicone, he replied, “Silicone is silicone is silicone. These products will always be made with a batch of chemicals – some considered toxic to the human body. Whatever silicone product you have that is exposed for any duration to the friction, heat, and moisture of the human body is going to eventually break down. That can occur as early as just a few months, or over several years – it’s a bit of a crapshoot!.”
I also interviewed dozens of patients who had “other” types of silicone implants and they all had the same problems as the women with silicone breast implants!
I found this info on a TV news segment about silicone bakeware: “The safest silicone molds for cooking – Make sure to NEVER buy silicone that contains peroxide, it could leak into the food. The safer silicone is made of platinum silicone AND needs to be freezer-, microwave-, and oven-safe and resistant to following temperatures: -40 Degree F and up to 500 degrees F.
I asked a baby bottle company about the silicone they use and they said this: “Our silicone sleeves are FDA approved silicone. The composition silicone GUM, silica and our tests comply with US FDA 21CFR 177.2600.” Do you know what GUM means and if the FDA approves only certain kinds of silicone? Do you know what kind of silicone is usually used for baby products?
From what I can find and have uncovered in past research, pretty much all silicones are made with both peroxide AND platinum and I’m very skeptical about anything made of silicone that will withstand heat up to 500 degrees without chemicals leaching out. (I’m not sure that is even scientifically practical/feasible).
I have read many customer reviews where bakers using these products “smelled and tasted chemicals” while baking with silicone, and, in the foods that were baked/cooked in these products!
From what I can find, “Silicone GUM” is the texture or consistency of silicone (there are solid silicones, semi-solid or rubber-like i.e., “GUM”, and gel/liquid silicone. BUT, they are ALL silicone and formed/manufactured with chemicals for binding, etc. SO, there are not really different “types” of silicone but different “textures and densities.”
The following is standard information on silicone(s):
There are three main industrial classifications of silicone rubbers:
- High Temperature Vulcanising (HTV)
Sometimes called heat curable, these are usually in a semi-solid gum form in the uncured state. They require rubber-type processing to produce finished items.
- Room Temperature Vulcanising (RTV)
Usually come as a flowable liquid and are used for sealants, mould making, encapsulation and potting. These materials are not generally used as conventional rubbers.
- Liquid Silicone Rubbers (LSR)
Sometimes called heat curable liquid materials, these materials are processed on specially designed injection moulding and extrusion production equipment.
Other Components in Silicone:
With the exception of RTV and liquid curing systems, silicone rubbers are usually cured using peroxides such as benzoyl peroxide, 2,4-dichlorobenzoyl peroxide, t-butyl perbenzoate and dicumyl peroxide. Alkyl hydroperoxides and dialkyl peroxides have also been used successfully with vinyl containing silicones.
Hydrosilylation or hydrosilation is an alternative curing method for vinyl containing silicones and utilises hydrosilane materials and platinum containing compounds for catalysts. It is a 2-part process requiring mixing of 2 separate components, with the resulting material having a limited shelf life. Curing does not produce volatiles and heat cured conventional silicones with high tear strengths can be cured in this way.
Reinforcing fillers are added to improve the otherwise poor tensile strength of silicones.
Silica, in the form of silica fume with particle sizes in the range 10-40nm is the most preferred filler, although carbon black has been used. Fillers do interact with the vulcanisate, forming a pseudo-vulcanisation. This can occur either during mixing (creep hardening) or in storage (bin ageing).
Although milling can break down these structures, it is also common to add structure control additives or ant-structure additives to combat these reactions. Examples of these materials are siloxane-based materials such as diphenylsilane and pinacoxydimethylsilane.
If a parent must use a baby bottle to feed their baby, what would you recommend as the safest alternative nipple?
Today, I would use Natursutten BPA-Free Natural Rubber (Orthodontic) Nipples (& Pacifiers) but you need to change them out about once every month. They are organic and have no chemicals what-so-ever and are one solid mold so they have no cracks and natural rubber has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties!
I would definitely avoid the silicone nipples or pacifiers because there are NO safety tests or research proving efficacy and, with all of those chemicals used in making silicone, I would be very concerned about these leaching out into my baby’s mouth!
A note from the SafBaby mamas: SafBaby does not have access to any studies that show silicone used for baby/child items and bakeware is NOT safe. However, we have not see studies that prove that silicone IS safe either. This lack of information is scary to us because no one wants their children to be guinea pigs. We would like to hear from readers (scientists, manufacturers, other professionals) if they know of any studies that it is indeed tested safe OR not. We are incredibly grateful to Jamey Lacy July for sharing her knowledge with us today.
About Jamey Lacy July
Jamey Lacy July is a certified fitness specialist, former competitive athlete and former fitness model. She established Houston’s first full-scale personal training and physical rehabilitation center. Jamey has frequently appeared on television and has been featured in magazines such as SHAPE and Muscle & Fitness. She has authored numerous articles and lectured nationally on topics of physical and spiritual wellness for organizations such as The Institute of Medicine and The Women’s Sports Foundation. Jamey is the subject of a TV interview that won Best Sports Story by the Associated Press.
In recent years, due to health challenges from exposure to toxins in her environment, Jamey now consults on a limited basis with individuals and families on how to shop, cook, and eat cleaner, healthier versions of their favorite foods to maintain health and longevity. She also conducts interactive workshops on these topics as well as helping those with chronic health conditions maximize their healing potential via Clean (Pure) Comfort Foods and intelligent exercise designed to meet each person or child’s individual needs and goals.
As a consumer advocate Jamey has lobbied Congress to promote legislation for safer health issues for Americans. In her book, A Husband, A Wife, & An Illness, Jamey’s voice reveals the irony and raw nature of her plight with a ravaging illness, while also offering helpful insights for surviving the critical phases of chronic diseases and living a life beyond illness and limitations.
Photo of Jamey during early stage of illness, before onset of most severe symptoms: http://www.couplesfacingillness.com.