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Desiccant not so dangerous

Parents fret over many of the items kids come into contact with, particularly small objects that can present choking hazards or items that may be poisonous. One common thing that often turns up in a home are packets of silica gel.

Silica gel is a desiccant, which means it is designed to draw moisture out of something to keep it fresh. Silica packets are often found tucked into new shoes or handbags, and small pouches of silica gel may be in the vitamin bottles in the medicine cabinet.

Silica gel can absorb up to 40 percent of its weight in moisture. It is used to protect items where extreme temperature changes may cause moisture or condensation buildup, which can damage the products. Silica products also may be used to dry out closets or wet areas of the home, such as basements. Containers full of silica gel are used to absorb moisture from the air. Silica gel is also used at some industrial factories or other businesses to help with spill clean-up. The pellets are tossed onto a spill, which then absorb the moisture and make for an easier job of cleaning.

Individuals may have noticed that silica gel packets have the warning "do not eat" printed right on the packaging. They tend to resemble the individual packets of sugar found at restaurants, so it may be easy for children and adults to mistake them for something edible. What if a packet of silica gel did end up in the mouth? What would be the ramifications?

Rest assured that, although the experience may be uncomfortable, silica is not very harmful. If granules of silica gel ended up on the tongue or in the mouth, the product would suck out all of the moisture from the mouth, making it extremely dry and uncomfortable. Chances are there would be attempts to spit it out promptly. Should it be ingested, there could be dry eyes, dry throat, stomach upset, and aggravation of the mucous membranes, according to Discovery Health. It wouldn't completely suck the moisture out of the body in such a small dose, however.

Many household items feature posted warnings to protect the health of children and adults. Some things can be very dangerous if used in the wrong way, while others are less dangerous. But from a safety standpoint, it can be important to heed all warnings to avoid injury or illness.