"DO NOT EAT" The Secrets of Silica Gel Exposed!
October 31, 2002 11:35 AM   Subscribe

"DO NOT EAT" The Secrets of Silica Gel Exposed! What's in this tiny little packet that comes with almost everything? "these little packets which seem to have more "DO NOT EAT" warnings on them than, for instance, rat poison or antifreeze..." Mmmm Who's Hungry?
posted by devo (46 comments total)

 
It's simply a desiccant.
posted by four panels at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2002


You know, it's little posts like this one that make me really appreciate MeFi...=^_^=
posted by Spinderella56 at 11:43 AM on October 31, 2002


Hmmph. Mr. I Eat Silica Gel should pay heed to Courtney Love's dog.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:49 AM on October 31, 2002


Reminds me of the dissolvable styrofoam peanuts for packing. The guy out back at work would eat them, tastes like air, he would say.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:53 AM on October 31, 2002


Dear Shoe Company...
posted by JoanArkham at 11:55 AM on October 31, 2002


It's simply a desiccant.

I've always had visions of eating a package and becoming instantly mummified.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2002


Great link, JoanArkham... =)
posted by widdershins at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2002


At this point I'm dreading a bellybutton lint thread
posted by matteo at 11:58 AM on October 31, 2002


The gallery is totally hilarious.
posted by dayvin at 12:07 PM on October 31, 2002


4easypayments: me too! I always eye'd the packet warily, with visions of a horrible shriveling death.

I'm a little disappointed.
posted by malphigian at 12:07 PM on October 31, 2002


I was just wondering about this...weird. I suppose the "DO NOT EAT" comes from the packets use in medicine items. My prescriptions come with a couple plastic cylinders of the stuff.
posted by jeblis at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2002


It's not the dessicant itself that's the problem, it's whatever it may have absorbed, although the chances are it's only going to be water.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:11 PM on October 31, 2002


In case it's not completely clear, silica gel is refined, dried sand. From an MSDS in our lab (a safety info sheet every manufacturer is required to supply—also, MSDS's are required BY LAW to shout, 'cause they're that important, just like software licencing boilerplate):

ACUTE EFFECTS
   MAY CAUSE SKIN IRRITATION.
   MAY BE HARMFUL IF ABSORBED THROUGH THE SKIN.
   CAUSES EYE IRRITATION.
   HARMFUL IF INHALED.
   MATERIAL IS IRRITATING TO MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT.
   MAY BE HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED.TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, THE CHEMICAL, PHYSICAL, AND TOXICOLOGICAL PROPERTIESHAVE NOT BEEN THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATED.

Got that kids? Don't touch sand, don't eat sand and don't breathe sand. Also, sand could be even worse than we know, so be crareful!

CHRONIC EFFECTS
   THIS PRODUCT IS OR CONTAINS A COMPONENT THAT IS NOT CLASSIFIABLE AS TO ITSCARCINOGENICITY BASED ON ITS IARC, ACGIH, NTP OR EPA CLASSIFICATION.

On the bright side, we don't know for sure that sand is carcinogenic.

FIRE FIGHTING MEASURES
   USE EXTINGUISHING MEDIA APPROPRIATE TO SURROUNDING FIRE CONDITIONS.

Put out ignited sand with that sand bucket by the door!

Here's the part I really like:
DISPOSAL CONSIDERATIONS
   CONTACT A LICENSED PROFESSIONAL WASTE DISPOSAL SERVICE TO DISPOSE OF THISMATERIAL.
   BURY IN A LANDFILL SITE APPROVED FOR THE DISPOSAL OF CHEMICAL AND HAZARDOUSWASTES.

Sand is toxic waste! It should never be disposed of! It might end up on a beach somewhere!

To summarise: Sand is a Chemical! It might be Toxic! Just say no to sand!
posted by bonehead at 12:15 PM on October 31, 2002


The things you learn on here...
posted by SisterHavana at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2002


Fun tip: If you put the little, plastic cylinder of silica from a pill bottle in your ear it amplifies the sound of the shifting grains so it feels like you're in a giant, invisible maraca when you're walking around. Put a cylinder in each ear for a more realistic, stereo effect!
posted by picea at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2002


Now is this the same stuff that they use in the new crystal cat litter....I must investigate....

"Does ARM & HAMMER Crystal Blend contain Baking Soda?
Yes, Crystal Blend does contain ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda.

How much Baking Soda does ARM & HAMMER Crystal Blend contain?
The amount of Baking Soda is proprietary.

What are the crystals made of?
The crystals are comprised of silica and colorant.

What is the role/benefit of crystals in the product?
The crystals are designed to trap odors on contact, providing extra strength odor control.

Is there any danger to humans or cats related to the use of silica in cat litter?
There is no danger to either humans or cats when the product is used as directed. The silica gel does not contain any harmful crystalline silica dust."
posted by jeblis at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2002


Fun tip that doesn't have the possibility of damaging your eardrums: If you save the packets (and they're not fully "loaded", i.e., still have absorptive power) you can keep them in a closed jar with any flower (or other) seeds that you may want to store over the winter, so as to keep the seeds from germinating or rotting.

The packets are also found packed in your better varieties of beef jerkey as well as other foodstuffs, where at least the "do not eat" warning makes some sense.
posted by yhbc at 12:38 PM on October 31, 2002


Sand is a Chemical! It might be Toxic! Just say no to sand!

Sand can be dangerous if it's a dust and you inhale it. Many miners died of silicosis until they started spraying water from the mining equipment to reduce dust.
posted by jeblis at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2002


Fun tip: If you put the little, plastic cylinder of silica from a pill bottle in your ear it amplifies the sound of the shifting grains so it feels like you're in a giant, invisible maraca

yah but while you're walking around with them in your ears you have to shake your head pretty vigorously for the grains to make a lot of noise, and that makes you look crazy.

*sheepish side to side glance* did i say that out loud...?
posted by t r a c y at 12:44 PM on October 31, 2002


I once found packet of silica gel that wasn't labeled "DO NOT EAT." But I was too afraid, too afraid...
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2002


I whish I undusted haw taut uses thud spiel chokers.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2002


That is the funniest thing I have ever read in my life. I love the one which is a just a piece of plastic with "Do Not Eat" written on it.
posted by ac at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2002


Reminds me of the dissolvable styrofoam peanuts for packing. The guy out back at work would eat them, tastes like air, he would say.

I think those dissolvable peanuts are actually made of rice...hence, edible. i don't know if eating styrofoam is too good for you.
posted by tristeza at 1:59 PM on October 31, 2002


Many of you feel sorry for this Silica. That is because you crazy. And besides, the new one is much tastier.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:01 PM on October 31, 2002


Not to sound too Martha Stewart, but I've been using "Do Not Eats" for years to keep delicate, wooden Christmas ornaments from warping when stored in a coffee can. Okay, enough of that. Fortunately I had a bottle of Excedrin on my desk so I could immediately try the "ear maraca" thing. Very soothing. Thanks, picea.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2002


Reminds me of all the plastic packing bags ominously labeled "THIS IS NOT A TOY".

I believe it's related to Americans love affair with law suits. Do any of our non-American MeFites encounter similar silica or "not a toy" warnings on their non-import items?
posted by DBAPaul at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2002


Metafilter: Your place to learn about ear maracas.

Somewhere out there, some poor person has a "thing" for silica gel packs. Maybe it started when he was a kid. The little package surely looked like a tasty candy snack. After one pack, he tried another to see if was different-- more chewy perhaps or heartier flavor. And before long the poor guy was hunting down the packs relentlessly, needing to pop 10 or 12 a day to feel "right". He spends his breaks at work in the men's room, furtively chowing down, feeling bad about the unsociable monkey on his back, but clueless as to how to break the vicious cycle.

That's why I'm passing out these lovely grey ribbons for silica gel fetish awareness week. If you would like to pledge your support, just email me and for a few pennies a day-- about the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks-- we can make a difference!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:05 PM on October 31, 2002


I worked at a poison center a few years ago answering questions from people about the terrifying range of accidental and intentional ingestions that happen everyday. Someone's child woudl invariably eat a silica gel packet every week, and because of the package warning, they were very reluctant to believe us when we told them it's harmless.

The best toxic ingestion was a guy's dog who had eaten one of his viagra and wouldn't leave him alone. The dog was described as "wild-eyed." The guy sounded really scared.
posted by mert at 3:10 PM on October 31, 2002


At this point I'm dreading a bellybutton lint thread

matteo, we did kind of here, down at the bottom.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:58 PM on October 31, 2002


I think those dissolvable peanuts are actually made of rice...hence, edible.

I use to use that 'edible foam' when packing up boxes in a bookstore, and yeah, I ate a couple...The scary thing is I am sure that home-brand cheezles are made from those things, with some orange, cheese-flavoured powder sprinkled on them.

I'm not kidding - have a look and see if I'm not right!
posted by backOfYourMind at 4:25 PM on October 31, 2002


And I'm not being paid to spruik for home-brand cheezles either...

- no nasty email for me!
posted by backOfYourMind at 4:29 PM on October 31, 2002


Amusingly, at the dodgier end of the health-food aisle, you can often buy silica gel as a nutritional supplement. I've always wondered what they use as a dessicant in those bottles.

I've assumed that the packets say DO NOT EAT because they're often found in pill bottles. You don't want someone eating a silica capsule instead of a pill and therefore getting the wrong dosage of medicine. On other hand, it seems that there is a custom in some places of including treats and snacks in random non-food-related shipments (of books, electronic parts, etc.), so perhaps that's why the silica folks feel they need to caution us not to eat the silica we get with our shoes or our stereo.
posted by hattifattener at 6:09 PM on October 31, 2002


Great post. Inspired my the condiment thread, perhaps?

You'd think that guy would polish his penny...
posted by ParisParamus at 6:15 PM on October 31, 2002


More on the guy with the wild-eyed dog please
posted by rainbows at 6:28 PM on October 31, 2002


I wish I had known that these thing were edible when I was poor and in college selling VCRs!
posted by boardman at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2002


Why am I not allowed to stand on the orange part of the elevator step? When I was growing up everytime my parents took me to SeaTac Airport I would talk myself into tapping my toe on the side of the step on the orange strip. I do that to this day. That won't kill me will it?
posted by vito90 at 8:23 PM on October 31, 2002


Inspired my the condiment thread, perhaps?

You'd think that guy would polish his penny...


Which can easily be accomplished, thanks to Taco Bell sauce's amazing penny-polishing abilities... (Scroll down one screen to Jim Maloneys' comment)

And thus the thread circle is complete.
posted by boomchicka at 9:09 PM on October 31, 2002


... think those dissolvable peanuts are actually made of rice ...

Mmm, rice peanuts. They are quite edible but, unfortunately, also quite tasteless. I have grossed people out many times by stuffing them into my mouth when unpacking things. I once made the mistake of doing it in front of one of my daughters and spent weeks trying to stop here from eating every piece of styrofoam she saw.

By the way, was this post inspired by jonmc's site, or is time to cue the x-files theme?
posted by dg at 9:22 PM on October 31, 2002


First, "ear maracas" are the funniest thing this quarter.

Also, doesn't the packets' resemblance to packets of sugar have something to do with the warning?

However, wouldn't the worst case be if a too-literal-minded reader went on fasting indefinitely? ("But it told me not to eat!")
posted by apollo3000 at 10:39 PM on October 31, 2002


During family reunions during the summers of my youth, my grandmother always use to warn us kids to never eat the styrofoam cups. According to her, it would turn to glass in our stomachs due to some as yet unstudied phenomenom of the human digestive system. We still joke about it now. I only wish I knew where she got that piece of info from.
posted by ttrendel at 11:49 PM on October 31, 2002


do not eat
posted by lost and found at 1:14 AM on November 1, 2002


I always thought they said "Do Not Eat" because they looked like a packet of sugar. My $.02.
posted by byort at 6:43 AM on November 1, 2002


Down here in the south, clay eating has a long history. Any ingestion of dirt or related substances (and sand is another poplular one) is called geophagy, while ingestion of non-food items in general is called pica. More info here. In case you wondered, the medical term for eating burnt match heads is cautopyreiophagia. I haven't seen a term for eating silica gel packets.
posted by TedW at 7:56 AM on November 1, 2002


I think, just to be on the safe side, everything not intended for consumption should be clearly labeled "DO NOT EAT".

For example: smaller dogs, the Chrysler Building, and Hostess SnoBalls.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2002


Why not Ask A Scientist©.
posted by hatutah at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2002


Why am I not allowed to stand on the orange part of the elevator step?

I'll give you the phone number of my cousin, whose foot was close enough to the edge of the escalator step that his shoelace was able to get snagged into the gears. He has five toes. Total.
posted by Dreama at 11:11 AM on November 7, 2002


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