Many have noticed a paper bag with balls in a shoe box. Someone in childhood, and maybe in adulthood, wanted to taste its contents. In appearance, this item can be easily confused with a disposable container of salt or candy. But warning «do not eat ”, often in different languages, stopped even the most curious. But what will be, if you still swallow these balls?
Inside the small paper bags, which are often put in shoeboxes, are silica gel. In fact, this is not a gel, but a granular form of silicon dioxide – a compound formed during the oxidation of this non-metal.
The silica gel was patented by Johns Hopkins University professor Walter A. Patrick in 1918. Its absorbent properties were widely used during the First World War: the filters of gas masks were filled with silica gel, and medicines were also stored in it during transportation to the front.
Silica gel absorbs large amounts of water – about a third of its weight – and does not undergo shape change or chemical reactions. Even when the granules are saturated, they remain dry to the touch.
What happens if you eat a couple of pellets? Most likely nothing. After all, silica gel is mostly artificial sand. It is non-toxic and chemically inactive. People who swallowed from a few beads to a whole packet reported no side effects. Silica gel granules have practically no taste.
The “do not eat” warning on paper bags does make sense. In theory, the substance can cause severe dehydration in a person, because its task is to absorb moisture. But for such a state, one small package is not enough.
Some silica gel packets may also
Inhalation of silica dust can cause lung disease – silicosis. Symptoms include shortness of breath, dry cough, chest pain, and fever. In its advanced form, silicosis is fatal.