Silica Gel Ingestion
Is Silica Gel Poisonous?
Silica gel packets are small paper packets or plastic cylinders which consist of small beads of silica gel. These packets are included in the packaging with many products on the market today ranging from shoe boxes to medicines bottles. Silica gel is a desiccant which is something that absorbs and holds water vapor. Silica gel packets can be purchased so that you can use them inside luggage to prevent moisture from ruining your clothes. They also can be used to help keep dried food fresh such as beef jerky.
For the most part, silica gel is nearly harmless although some types have been impregnated with cobalt chlorine which is blue when dry and turns pink when wet. There are some significant health and environmental health risks associated with the use of cobalt chlorine including the possibility that it causes cancer as well as skin and respiratory irritation. Silica gel ingestion should therefore be avoided. Eating silica gel can cause your mucous membranes and nasal cavities to dry out and it can also give you an upset stomach.
Silica gel packets are typically marked with warning labels that say something like “Throw Away – Do Not Eat”. The reason being is that the packets are not a food item and they can be a choking hazard to children and animals. While silica gel poisoning is rare it is best to dispose of silica gel packets by breaking the packets open and discarding the contents so that they cannot be swallowed whole. Packets of clear silica gel are recognized as safe by the FDA although they can cause mild nausea, constipation and vomiting if ingested. The second type of silica gel that contains cobalt chlorine is called “indicator” gel because it changes color. This is the only type that could possibly cause silica gel poisoning when ingested in large quantities.
If you happen to have a few packets of silicone gel at home you can recycle them by simply using them again inside your suitcases or drawers to keep items dry. Another way to recycle silica gel is to tuck them inside the covers of your photo albums to keep mold and mildew at bay. They also can be recycled by using them inside boxes holding electronics and electric tools. You also could slip one or two inside a musical instrument case for protection against moisture.
In short, silica gel ingestion should be avoided. Obviously, adults would have no reason to eat silica gel but young children and pets could accidentally swallow these packets. If you have suspected that your child or pet has ingested silicone gel, it is best to contact your local poison control center for advice – just to be on the safe side. As with other items on the market that can be hazardous if swallowed, it is best to keep silicone gel packets out of the reach of kids and animals.