What is Silica?

Silica, or silicon dioxide (chemical formula: SiO2), is a white or colourless crystal or powder. Silica is both odourless and tasteless. Made up of silicon and oxygen, silica is one of the most abundant elements, making up over 50% of the earth’s crust. 

What is Silica used for?

Silica is used as a component in several applications across many industries, including in:

  • Cosmetics
  • Toothpaste
  • Food & drink (it is an anti-caking additive and moisture absorber)
  • Glass
  • Silicone rubbers
  • Cans
  • Sedatives
  • Medications and supplements
  • Concrete
  • Insecticides
  • Elemental silicon
Silica sachets found within food and supplement packages, serve to absorb moisture and keep the goods fresh.
Silica sachets found within food and supplement packages, serve to absorb moisture and keep the goods fresh.

Silica Hazards

The routes of exposure for silica include inhalation, ingestion and skin and eye contact. 

Inhalation of silica can cause respiratory discomfort, and those with already compromised respiratory function (conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis) or circulatory/nervous systems, at risk of suffering further disability upon inhalation of higher concentrations. Inhalation of fine silica dust can become lodged in the lungs, cursing bronchitis, lung cancer or a condition known as silicosis. 

Ingestion of silica can irritate the gastrointestinal tract, however, it has not been classified as “harmful by ingestion”.

Skin contact with silica is not thought to produce adverse health effects or irritation, but it is still encouraged that exposure be kept to a minimum and suitable gloves are worn during handling. Harmful health effects may occur following entry into the bloodstream through open cuts and wounds. 

Direct eye contact with silica may cause transient discomfort, tearing, redness and slight abrasive damage. 

Silica Safety

If inhaled, remove the patient from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source. Lay them down and keep them warm and rested. If the patient is not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR (preferably with a bag-valve mask device). Seek medical attention without delay.

If swallowed, immediately give the patient a glass of water. First aid is generally not required, but if in doubt, seek medical attention.

If skin exposure occurs, flush the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Seek medical attention in the event of irritation.

If exposed to the eyes, flush the eyes out immediately with fresh running water, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Removal of contact lenses should only be done by a skilled individual. Seek medical attention without delay.

Silica Safety Handling

Emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure and adequate ventilation should be available to control contaminants in the air.

The PPE recommended for handling silica includes safety glasses with side shields, chemical goggles, dust respirators, PVC/rubber gloves, PVC aprons and overalls. Skin cleansing and barrier creams are also recommended in instances of skin exposure. 

Read a copy of the SDS and ensure you are familiar with the dangers and safety risks before handling silica. Click here for a trial of our SDS Management Software or contact us at sa***@ch*******.net for more information about our chemicals management solutions.