You’ll find silica gel it packaged with all sorts of products, ranging from consumer electronics and furniture to shoes and handbags. At times, you’ll even find it packed alongside food items such as biltong and dried seaweed — and even some vitamins and medicines. And that seems like a really bad idea because, as the silica gel pack so clearly states, “DO NOT EAT.”
But what happens if you do? The good news: you’ll most likely be okay.
Silica gel is a desiccant, which means that it’s a substance used to keep things around it dry. Basically, silica gel absorbs moisture, keeping the cell phone, leather shoes, or dried meat it’s packed with from getting ruined. If you were to rip a pack open, you’d find granular silicic acid, which resembles sand or tiny gel beads.
You shouldn’t eat it because it isn’t food, but silica is non-toxic. There’s no risk of overdose and that if a child were to ingest some, you should just “give the child a few sips of water.” And that’s probably just because the gel is causing a little bit of dry mouth. So if you call Poison Control, expect them to tell you not to worry.
Silica is added to improve flow in powdered foods. It occurs naturally in water, where it may help confer resistance against developing senility. Silica is just another name for silicon dioxide, the main component of sand, glass, and quartz. The “gel” part of the name means the silica is hydrated or contains water. If you eat silica, it won’t be digested, so it will pass through the gastrointestinal tract to be excreted in faeces.
Alone, silica gel is non-toxic, non-flammable and chemically unreactive. However, some of the beads may be doped with a moisture indicator, such as cobalt (II) chloride, which is carcinogenic. Cobalt (II) chloride is deep blue when dry (anhydrous) and pink when moist (hydrated). This is the reason most silica gel packets are labelled as dangerous or poisonous when eaten. Crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis but synthetic amorphous silica, which is what silica gel is, does not cause silicosis. A chemically similar substance with far greater porosity is aerogel.
Okay, so, why the big “DO NOT EAT” warning? The packets tend to get stuck in our throats or. In that case, the hazard isn’t poison, it’s choking.” If you’re not able to get them down, that’s an enormous problem. If you are, you should be fine, but please, do not try to find out.
Either way, if you or a loved one eats a packet of “DO NOT EAT” stuff, play it safe, and consult your doctor immediately just to be safe.