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drawing_dwarf
11 April 2013 @ 05:42 pm

Hey everybody,

So, I hate to be the bringer of (possibly) bad news but I don’t hate it so much that I won’t do it, because knowledge is power and I hate being lied to.

So, flame testing.  I’m not sure how many people here are familiar with the concept, so I’ll give a quick run-down.  The idea is to determine if a product which claims to be “silicone” is in fact made entirely of silicone or if it is actually a silicone/elastomer blend (this is a much more common problem than you probably think).  It’s a pretty simple test; you just take the object in question and hold it in the open flame of a match or lighter for a few seconds and observe.  Pure silicone won’t melt, catch on fire, deform, or degenerate; the most that will happen is you might get a bit of ash on the surface.  Elastomer on the other hand is very flammable.  When you have a silicone/elastomer blend it will melt, deform, or even catch on fire.

I’ve really only seen flame testing used by sex toy reviewers since the industry is completely unregulated and manufacturers lie about materials but I figured I could just as easily apply it to menstrual cups.

I got suspicious of my Fleurcups after recieving a Lunette.  I happened to be boiling one of my Fleurs and the Lunette at the same time and noticed that the Fleur had significantly more of a hot plastic-y smell after boiling than the Lunette which barely smelled at all.  Even at room temperature the Fleurs tend to have a very slight plastic smell.  I know that the Fleurcup website claims medical grade silicone, but I’m not really sure if materials claims in things like cups is regulated in France so I decided to check for myself.  I flame tested the stems of both the Fleur and the Lunette and got some bad news where the Fleur is concerned.  I got definite material degeneration on the Fleur’s stem; it kind of smoldered and cooled in a kind of hard, discolored, crumbly/flaky substance.  This did not happen with the Lunette; I did get some serious carbon residue but a lot of that may have even been from the match.

Just for comparison I did the same with a couple of products which I know for a fact are made of pure high quality silicone: a Tantus dildo, and a Fun Factory one.  I only got minor ashing from both of these which is what one would expect from pure silicone which is what the Fleurcups claim to be made out of.

Now as far as silicone versus elastomer goes I know that MeLuna makes their cups from elastomer, and it isn’t necessarily a bad material but I don’t personally want an elastomer cup.  My reasons for not wanting elastomer is the fact that it’s slightly porous and therefor can’t be cleaned as thoroughly as silicone which is completely non-porous.  As far the Fleurcup goes, I figure if you're fine with a silicone/elastomer blend cup then you could absolutely keep using it and it's probably no big deal, but I personally am not okay with it.

The biggest problem I see here is that I want to know exactly what something is made of before I shove it up my vagina and leave it there for hours.  If they were marketed as silicone/elastomer blend cups that would be fine and I just wouldn’t buy one.  Claiming a product is made of medical grade silicone when it really isn’t is not cool.  I’m going to email Fleurcup and see if they have anything to say about the matter.

I’m also curious if anyone else here flame tests, and I’m especially curious if someone with a Sckoon cup would be willing to test theirs because I am now in the market for a new large cup and I like the look of the Sckoon.

I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of the damage right now because my camera battery is dead, but I can add some later if people are interested.

ETA: Wow this sounds much more ominous with everything else hidden behind a cut.  It's not quite as horrible as it sounds.

 
Jennifer Monoteasy2begreen on April 12th, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
How interesting! I looked around just now for flame tests for silicone and didn't find a good resource. Do you have any links? My understanding is that silicone is not a pure element/substance (different from silicon), but rather a type of material involving silicon, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, which comes in multiple different formulations (and might explain some of the differences you saw?). Wiki says that silicone is a type of elastomer, a general term referring to any rubbery polymer. I am, of course, open to the possibility that Wiki is wrong. :-) I could ask my chem prof, but he might be curious why I'm asking!

I agree that some of the cup companies' medical grade claims are a bit sketchy, considering that medical grade requires clean rooms and other very finicky conditions. FleurCup is on the cheap end of menstrual cups, which makes it more likely they would take some short cuts. However, it seems like those super clean conditions are most important when it comes to silicone implants or replacement valves -- things that are in you pretty much permanently. I think some cup manufacturers let you see their manufacturing standards and chemical reports. It would be interesting to see what FleurCup says in response to you.
drawing_dwarfdrawing_dwarf on April 12th, 2013 03:38 am (UTC)
I think it'd be great if you asked your chem prof if you can!

I don't really have any links about the flame test because it's not exactly super scientific and isn't always 100% accurate, but without specialized equipment it's pretty much the only thing consumers can do. I know Metis Black (the president of Tantus Inc.) stands by the flame test as a good resource for consumers though, so I guess that's something. I think it makes sense though, because when you put a food grade silicone muffin pan in a 500 degree oven it doesn't melt or go all weird and smelly so it probably shouldn't catch on fire in a 600 degree flame either.

Silicone isn't a pure element, but there are formulations which contain only silicone compounds which is what would be used in medical devices and suchlike. I'm pretty sure that any formulation which contains only silicone compounds should hold up about the same in a flame test and be similarly non-reactive. When I was saying elastomer I was referring to other types of elastomer such as TPEs which I believe are derived from petroleum. I knew that elastomer was an umbrella term, but I didn't know that silicone fell into it too.

For me the medical grade thing isn't so much about clean room manufacturing but rather the assurance that everything in that formulation is safe for use in the body because there are a lot of things that get put into personal products which aren't even close to safe.
Jennifer Monoteasy2begreen on April 12th, 2013 04:51 am (UTC)
Haha, I'm totally trying to think of ways to ask my chem prof without referencing sex toys or menstrual cups. (We don't have that kind of relationship...)

What chemicals are you most concerned about in plastics? I don't know much about sex toys or studies that show harm from exposure to unregulated chemicals in them, but I'd be interested in reading more. I looked around just now for the materials safety data sheets, but I didn't see any for specific menstrual cups. I hope FleurCup will provide theirs if asked.