Immunotoxicity of 180 day exposure to polydimethylsiloxane (silicone) fluid, gel and elastomer and polyurethane disks in female B6C3F1 mice
Millions of people have been exposed to silicones which are present in consumer goods such as cosmetics and toiletries, processed foods and household products. In addition, silicones have been used extensively in medical practice as a lubricant in tubing and syringes, and as implantable devices. A silicone widely used in medical practice is polydimethylsiloxane. This study was undertaken to determine the immunotoxicologic potential of long term exposure to the principal constituents of breast implants: silicone fluid, silicone gel and silicone elastomer. An alternative covering for devices containing silicone gels, polyurethane, was also included in the study. Silicone fluid and gel were injected subcutaneously into female B6C3F1 mice (1 ml/mouse) and 6 mm disks of silicone elastomer or polyurethane were implanted subcutaneously. There were no treatment-related deaths or overt signs of toxicity during the 180 day exposure. None of the tested materials had notable effects on body or organ weights, erythrocytes or leukocytes in the blood, blood chemistries such as alanine aminotransferase, urea nitrogen, glucose, albumin or total protein, or serum CH 50 or C3 levels. The cellularity of the bone marrow and responses to CSF-GM and CSF-M were normal. The tested silicones and polyurethane marginally reduced the level of Ig+ cells in the spleen but did not consistently alter the distribution of T cell surface markers. The antibody response to sheep erythrocytes was not markedly altered, nor were proliferative responses to concanavalin A, phytohemagglutinin, lipopolysaccharide or allogeneic cells. Reticuloendothelial function was normal, as was phagocytosis of chicken erythrocytes and Covaspheres by adherent peritoneal cells. Natural killer cell activity was depressed in all silicone treatment groups and in mice implanted with polyurethane. No silicone or polyurethane treatment group displayed altered susceptibility to a challenge with Listeria monocytogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae or the B16F10 tumor. The only consistent effect of 180 day exposure to silicone materials or polyurethane was a modest depression of natural killer cell activity.