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The Risk of Contamination

February 22, 2013 at 2:53 PM

The same questions over the origins and quality of silicone sheeting must be asked, as reported in our December 2012 newsletter. This highlighted the poor quality of silicone materials being imported onto the European market, with many suppliers unsure of where the material has originated from and what ingredients have gone into making it.

In light of the horse meat scandal, we felt it appropriate to re-publish our report and its findings, shown below; raising the question to distributors and suppliers of silicone products ‘Do you know where your material originates from, but more importantly, do you know what is in it?

Findings

There are many inferior silicone sheeting products currently being imported onto the European market with very little trace of where it originates from. Many suppliers and/or traders state that their material complies with various international standards and regulations but in reality, when tested, >95% fall way short of the mark. With our state of the art laboratory we are able to test various silicone products to clarify that the material matches the datasheet and specification. Our findings of competitor’s offerings are worryingly poor.

The silicone products being imported onto the European market, mainly coming in from the Far East, are of poor quality; not only aesthetically but also lack credibility when both the material datasheets and actual test results are compared. We recently tested samples of an imported sponge sheeting sample (see Table 1) where the datasheet stated the sponge had a water absorption percentage of less than 5%. When tested, the actual result of the water absorption was alarmingly closer to 50%. This is just one example of many where the materials do not match the data sheets as claimed by certain companies.

Table 1
Sponge - Water Absorption

Further to testing the water absorption, we have carried out tests on other imported silicone products, which again have proven to show negative and worrying results. From the sponge samples obtained, we have also tested compression deflection and density. As seen in table 2 below, each sample tested of the imported silicone shows very erratic and inconsistent results. The spikes highlight the significant irregularity in the material quality. In table 3, we see the density of each of the imported sponge samples fail to comply with the AMS 3195 standard, which totally contradicts what is being stated on the datasheet.

Table 2
Sponge - Compression Deflection

Table 3
Sponge - Density

Although being inferior to smooth finished sponge in many applications, textured finish sponge is better applied in industries such as the printing sector. T-Shirt printing presses and printing rollers for photocopiers are much more suited to textured sponge due to the out-gassing and quick release properties that the textured sponge allows for.

REACH compliance and country of origin for safety assurance

With so many inferior silicone products being imported and sold onto the European market, the question many should ask is 'do you know where your silicone is being produced and under what conditions is it made?'

A duty of care needs to be taken by manufacturers and traders to ensure that the silicone being sold has been made in an environment where emissions are controlled and volatiles from the materials are being extracted in a safe manner. The inhalation of carcinogenic fumes from these emissions can cause serious long term health problems and can lead to fatalities. Although not identified in the short term, 10-15 years onwards is when lung failure can occur. With this in consideration, Silicone Engineering carried out tests on a number of solid samples that are currently being imported onto the market, see Table 4 below. When testing a variety of these materials that claim to comply with FDA and BfR (German equivalent) standards, the volatile levels in the silicone have been well and beyond what is deemed suitable to claim to abide to these standards. For a distributor or an OEM selling on such materials, they could again face huge implications due to the poor quality of the material.

Table 4
Solid - Volatile Loss

Managing Director, Paul Kinsella “Before you commit to your next sheeting purchase, uphold your duty of care to the wellbeing of staff, customers and the performance of the silicone products once in application. A guarantee of quality to all three of these factors is of upmost importance and needs to be strongly considered when committing to any purchase of silicone. Ask the manufacturer or trader for proof of origin data to ensure the material you’re buying is of good quality.”

Be Safe, Be Sure, Be Responsible.

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