Desiccant pack explodes, leaving boy blind in one eye

Silica gel and other desiccants aren't just choking hazards to kids. They can be hazardous in other ways...

Have you seen those little white packs hiding in the packaging of various items you purchase? You might know already that the contents are silica gel (one type of desiccant among others), and they’re there to keep your items fresh. But have you ever wondered, “are desiccants toxic?”

The answer in general is “no”… but as long as you keep them away from your inquisitive child. An incident involving a child and a pack of desiccant recently came to our attention. We want to share it with you as an eye-opener about the potential dangers of this substance.

Are desiccants toxic? Yes, if they explode in your child’s face…

A Facebook group called 靠北医师 posted a horrifying story of how an eight-year-old became permanently blind in one eye by playing with a pack of quicklime desiccant.

Here is the original post:

The main text, translated to English, reads:

“Parents, take note! #Pleasesharetonewparents 

Male toddler plays with exploding desiccant, leading to his right eye melting and long term blindness. 

Keke, an 8 year old boy, took out a silicon gel dessiccant and played with it out of curiosity. Unfortunately, the dessiccant exploded, and its contents directly entered Keke’s right eye, and he immediately cried and rolled in pain.

Once his mom knew about this, she immediately brought him to the doctor. Upon further examination, the doctor remarked that Keke’s right eye had completely corroded after being exposed to an alkaline fluid, leaving his right eye permanently blind. After listening to the doctor’s doctor’s analysis, Keke’s mom she fell to the ground, not having any strength left to even cry. 

According to reports, the active ingredient in the dessiccant is lime, or also known as calcium oxide. When water is added to it, a chemical reaction occurs. This reaction generates a lot of heat, and if it occurs in a tight, confined space, the air within the confined enclosure can expand, causing an explosion.

#silicaexplodeswhenittoucheswater  #toddlerturnspermanentlyblind

The liquid produced from the chemical reaction is highly corrosive to human tissue.

How it all happened

“Are desiccants toxic?” To answer this question we need to know a desiccant is, first.

Those tiny parcels you see in potato chip bags and other packaging contain “desiccants”. These serve to absorb humidity and moisture, drying the air around the product and maintaining it in mint condition.

are desiccants toxic

Packaged food, shoes and other goods normally contain desiccants to reduce moisture, thereby maintaining their condition. Source: Stock photos

There are two types of desiccants: one that is made up of silica gel beads, which are relatively harmless and that most of us know about. But, there is another type that is made of quicklime, or calcium oxide.

These quicklime desiccants aren’t as pricey as silica gel beads and are more widely used. However, they are hazardous when compared to silica gel or other desiccants.

Going back the KeKe’s story: What happened was that KeKe’s family rewarded him with his favorite snacks for excelling in his examinations.

KeKe took the desiccant parcel from his treat and stuffed it into his bottled beverage.

Unexpectedly, and not long after, the bottle burst, releasing the liquid into his right eye. The moment the watery substance made contact with his eye sealed his tragic fate — where he became half-blind and suffered excruciating pain.

What we can learn from by answering the question “Are desiccants toxic?”

Small objects can pose hidden dangers to children, sometimes much more so than we think. Therefore, parents, you should follow some practical tips to help prevent such accidents from happening.

  • Supervise your children at all times. Are they playing with some potentially dangerous items? Desiccant packs are not toys and should be kept away from children.
  • Also, silica gel beads can be choking hazards, so do explain to your children very clearly what the label means, and why.
  • Remind all caregivers of your children — including your helper — about the potential risk of such items. They should not allow your kids to play with desiccant packs or other hazardous items.

We at theAsianparent hope that this story answering the question “Are desiccants toxic?”, and can provide parents insight in preventing other potential hazards that may befall their children without adequate supervision.

References: Mothership.com.sg, 靠北医师

Also read: Little known baby safety hazards

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore