Question: What Happens If You Eat Silica Gel Beads?
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 happens if you eat silica gel. 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.