Dear EarthTalk: Are there any health hazards associated with the use of the new silicone bake ware and cooking utensils?\u00a0 I have found information associated with the hazards\/benefits of Teflon and other cookware but nothing on the use of silicone. \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0-- Jean McCarthy, Sebastian, FL\r\n\r\nWith all the negative press about Teflon and about metals leaching out of pots and pans, consumers are on the lookout for cookware that\u2019s easy-to-clean and doesn\u2019t pose health concerns. Silicone, a synthetic rubber made of bonded silicon (a natural element abundant in sand and rock) and oxygen, is increasingly filling this niche. The flexible yet strong material, which has proven popular in muffin pans, cupcake liners, spatulas and other utensils, can go from freezer to oven (up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit), is non-stick and stain-resistant, and unlike conventional cookware, comes in a range of bright and cheery colors.\r\n\r\nBut some wonder if there is dark side to silicone cookware. Anecdotal reports of dyes or silicone oil oozing out of overheated silicone cookware pop up on Internet posts, as do reports of odors lingering after repeated washings. Also, silicone\u2019s image may be forever tainted by problems associated with silicone gel breast implants\u2014some women with earlier generations of these implants experienced capsular contracture, an abnormal immune system response to foreign materials. And while theories about silicone implants\u2019 link to breast cancer have since been debunked, the damage to silicone\u2019s reputation lives on.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s sad to say, but since the use of silicone in cookware is fairly new, there has not been much research into its safety for use with food. Back in 1979 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that silicon dioxides\u2014the basic elements in silicone cookware\u2014were generally recognized as safe to use even in food-grade contexts. But the first silicone cookware (silicone spatulas) didn\u2019t start to show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn\u2019t conducted any follow-up studies to determine whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food. For its part, Canada\u2019s health agency, Health Canada, maintains that food-grade silicone does not react with food or beverages or produce any hazardous fumes, and as such is safe to use up to recommended temperatures.\r\n\r\nConsumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd, who steers clear of Teflon due to health concerns, is bullish on silicone cookware after investigating potential toxicity. \u201cI tried to find some information on the health effects of silicone rubber, but it was not listed in any of the toxic chemical databases I use,\u201d she reports, adding that she also sampled material safety data on several silicone rubbers manufactured by Dow Corning (which makes some 700 variations). \u201cAll descriptions I read of silicone rubber describe it as chemically inert and stable, so it is unlikely to react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapors.\u201d She adds that silicone \u201cis not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste, and while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.\u201d\r\n\r\nSo while most of us will probably not have a problem with silicone cookware, those with chemical sensitivities might want to stay away until more definitive research has been conducted. In the meantime, cast iron and anodized aluminum cookware remain top choices for those concerned about harmful elements leaching into their cooked foods.\r\n\r\nCONTACTS: FDA, www.fda.gov; Health Canada, www.hc-sc.gc.ca; Debra Lynn Dadd, www.dld123.com; Dow Corning, www.dowcorning.com.\r\n\r\nSEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; firstname.lastname@example.org. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com\/earthtalk\/archives.php. EarthTalk\u00ae is now a book! Details and order information at: www.emagazine.com\/earthtalkbook.