Silicones Chemistry

Silicones are produced by first reacting silicon—one of the earth’s most common elements- with methyl chloride, combined with further reaction with water which removes the chlorine atom. These reactions produce polymers that essentially combine some of the physical qualities of a metal with the diversity of plastics.

Although they contain organic components such as oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, silicones are generally more stable and inert than typical organic substances.

Some of the most commonly used silicone substances, called cyclosiloxanes, are:

These substances are basic members of the silicone family, serving as the building blocks for many silicones. They are used to create a diverse range of silicone materials, called polymers that provide beneficial characteristics to a wide variety of applications and products. D4, D5, and D6 are most frequently used as raw materials, meaning that the substance is employed in the manufacturing process but is only present at very low levels in the end products.

D4, D5, and D6 are some of the most extensively studied chemicals used in consumer applications. The data generated from studies assessing D4, D5, and D6 support their safety when the products in which they are a component are used as intended.

Silicone polymers have an exceptional breadth of chemical and physical properties, and can be manufactured in many forms, including:

  • Solids
  • Liquids
  • Pastes
  • Greases
  • Oils
  • Rubber

Silicones can be made to resist moisture, chemicals, heat, cold, and ultraviolet radiation. Because of these and other properties, they are utilized in thousands of products in applications including construction, consumer products, electronics, energy, healthcare, and transportation.

About Industry

The Global Silicones Council (GSC) is a not-for-profit, international organization representing companies that produce and sell silicone products around the world. The GSC brings together all the major global manufacturers via the three Regional Silicone Industry Associations (RSIAs) located in North America, Europe, and Japan. Those associations are:

Among the GSC’s objectives are promotion of safe use and stewardship of silicones globally. To accomplish its mission, the GSC undertakes the following activities:

  • Monitor the environmental, health, and safety activities of the three RSIAs and coordinate activities on a global basis.
  • Proactively promote industry communication with regulatory bodies around the world and with international environmental, health, and safety organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and the United Nations.
  • Through the RSIAs, identify and anticipate opportunities to enhance environmental, health, and safety research relating to silicones and engage in global projects to communicate the industry’s product stewardship commitment.
    • The global silicone industry extensively studies the human health and environmental impacts of its products. Science advisory boards, which include nationally and internationally renowned scientists, are used occasionally to provide independent reviews of the testing strategy, methodology, and findings of these studies. Universities, qualified contract laboratories, and Industry laboratories perform and review the tests and studies. Research results are regularly published in peer-reviewed journals.

The RSIAs sponsor projects to improve the public’s understanding of the benefits and safety of silicones.

The GSC has an agreement with the China Association of Fluorine and Silicone Industry (CAFSI) and the Solid Waste and Chemical Management and Technology Center (SCC) to jointly assess the environmental risks associated with D4 in China.  CAFSI is a trade association representing Chinese companies based in the Chinese silicone industry.   The SCC is a directly affiliated organization of the China Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and provides technical evidence for MEP to make regulatory decisions.