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Question from Jennifer

Hi Debra,

Does anyone know if silicone touted as antibacterial and antimicrobial is that way because it is naturally a deterrent or if it is treated with a chemical? And if treated with a chemical to be antibacterial, is it inert in silicone in the final product?

I can’t find any information online about it at all for non medical products. For example I’m looking at buying a silicone dish drying mat because the cloth ones just get moldy fast and they all seem to say they are antimicrobial, but I can’t determine why, if it is a natural byproduct of being silicone or if treated like so many things are now.

If my dishes that eat off of will be touching I was wondering if I should be concerned. Thanks!

Debra’s Answer

Antibacterials is a big subject and antibacterials can range in toxic effect from silver having virtually no health effects to triclosan, which is known to be an endocrine disruptor and cause skin and breast cancer, among other health effects. There is even now an antimicrobial made from peppermint oil, so whenever you see the word “antimicrobial,” you need to find out the specific antimicrobial that has been used.

Antibacterials may be widely used and not on the label, for they can be used to prevent the deterioration of plastics, for example, which would not be on the label because it’s not a selling point for consumers. Again, the antimicrobial may be perfectly harmless or have health effects.

With regards to your question as to whether silicone is inherently antibacterial or whether a chemical is added, I would say from looking at online search results that silicone is NOT inherently antibacterial because additives exist to make silicone antibacterial for specific uses.

Would the antibacterial leach from the silicone? Well, depending on what form the antibacterial comes in, it would likely bind to the silicone and not be released. But again, we don’t know the antibacterial or the form it is in, or its toxicity.

I’m using my best logic here, based on my understanding, not on tests.

I always apply the Precautionary Principle, which is, when in doubt, don’t use it.

This is another example of why there needs to be improved labeling that reveals what all the materials are.

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