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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

What Happens If You Eat Silica Gel Beads?

By March 4, 2014

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Silica gel beads (Balanarayanan)Silica gel beads are found in those little packets accompanying shoes, clothing and some snacks. The packets contain round or granular bits of silica, which is called a gel but is really a solid. The containers typically carry dire "Do Not Eat" and "Keep Away from Children" warnings. So, what happens if you eat silica?

Usually, nothing. In fact, you eat it all the time. 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.

Yet, if silica is harmless to eat, why do the packets carry the warning? The answer is that some silica contains toxic additives. For example, silica gel beads may contain toxic and potentially carcinogenic cobalt(II) chloride, which is added as a moisture indicator. You can recognize silica containing cobalt chloride because it will be colored blue (dry) or pink (hydrated). Another common moisture indicator is methyl violet, which is orange (dry) or green (hydrated). Methyl violet is a mutagen and mitotic poison. While you can expect most silica you encounter will be non-toxic, ingestion of a colored product warrants a call to Poison Control... Learn more


February 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm
(1) Chang says:

While that may be true, many time, silica is used as a dessicator and will be highly hydrophillic (loves water). If you were to ingest it, it may absorb the water, or “stick” to moisture…not something I want happening in my body….If you spill it on a wet sink surface, it will stick to the sink….

March 9, 2013 at 1:41 am
(2) christianne says:

i got really nervouse coz i didnt see my daughter opening this so called “silica gel” and i dont know if she injested one so i hurried searching for this answer … one more question the silca gel acctually came from a shoe box … does this have a chemical ???

June 12, 2013 at 11:04 pm
(3) Henry kiplagat yego says:

Which role do this silica serve when they come with shoes?

July 9, 2013 at 2:54 am
(4) PJ says:

Scilia is used to absorb moisture from getting into shoes/clothing/food so it doesn’t get moldy. (Because moisture can lead to bacteria.)

October 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm
(5) Noemi says:

My son ate silica gel should I take him to the emergency ? Questions please?????

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