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People who inhaled silicon dioxide (silica) vapors for a long period of time may suffer from adverse side effects. This could become the reason for many health problems like lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Do you know? Silicon dioxide vapors could be life-threatening but they are naturally present in oats that you eat in your breakfast. And, they are harmless in their natural form.

Like this, we are trying to cover other important information related to silicon dioxide along with its natural sources, side effects, dosage, and frequently asked questions.

What is Silicon Dioxide?

What is Silicon Dioxide?

Silicon dioxide (SiO₂), or silica, is a natural compound, which is an oxide of silicon. The base material for this compound is the most naturally occurring substances— Silicon (Si) and Oxygen (O₂). This is why they are found in every corner of the earth with around 60% on earth’s crust.

But, surprisingly, around 95% of rocks that are made on earth, contain silica. Naturally, they occur as quartz, silicic oxide, and pure silica, etc.

So, either you sit on a beach, or walk around it, everything has some extent of silicon dioxide. This scenario is also true for the human body. We do have silica in our tissues. Yet, until now, it is not clear what role does silica play’s in the human body.

General Chemistry of Silicon Dioxide (Silica)

  • Formula: SiO2
  • IUPAC ID: Silicon dioxide
  • Molar mass: 60.08 g/mol
  • Melting point: 1,710 °C
  • Density: 2.65 g/cm³
  • Boiling point: 2,230 °C

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Types of Silicon Dioxide (Silica)

Types of Silicon Dioxide (Silica)

Silica can be is divided into two distinct groups such as:

  1. Crystalline silica 
  2. Amorphous silica

Crystalline Silica

Crystalline Silica—quartz— the same thing. It is usually found in rock, sand, and many other substances. The process of cutting, grinding, and drilling eventually creates a lot of dust that contains tiny particles of crystalline silica.

Amorphous Silica

Amorphous silica usually found in sedimentary rocks. This may also form diatom silica which is made from deposits from the sediment of rivers, oceans, and lakes. 

Crystalline Silica vs Amorphous Silica

Crystalline Silica has an orderly structure while amorphous silica is unstructured. Consequently, it is hazardous because of its toxic properties. On the other hand, amorphous silica is not hazardous.

Sources of Silicon Dioxide

Sources of Silicon Dioxide

Silica or Silicon dioxide occurs broadly in nature, and the ATSDR gives an idea of how common this compound is:

  • About 12% of the earth’s crust is made up of quartz.
  • Silica occurs naturally in everything from water to plants and animals.
  • Silica makes up most of the rocks on earth. In fact, silica itself or silica-containing minerals make up more than 95% of the earth’s crust.
  • Additionally, Silica sand covers mostly beaches in the world.

Silicon Dioxide as Food Supplements

These are the following properties that show why silicon dioxide is useful as a food supplement:

  • To prevents foods from sticking together in lumps
  • Provides protection against the moisture
  • Helps to ensure a product shelf’s life
  • Alcohol absorption
  • Helps to stabilize beer
  • Help to distribute flavoring oils

Silicon dioxide exists in various plants that human consumes such as:

  • Dark green leaves
  • Melons
  • Dandelion
  • Some vegetables which include beets and bell peppers 
  • Cucumbers
  • Supplement capsules
  • Artichokes
  • Alfalfa
  • Grains and cereals such as oats and brown rice
  • Egg products

Benefits of Silicon Dioxide (Silica)

Benefits of Silicon Dioxide (Silica)

As silica’s role is still unknown, but researchers list some possible benefits of it:

Bone Health

As per the study, it is reported that silicon dioxide increases bone mineral density and strength. They (research) provide a positive link between using silicon supplements and increasing bone mineral density and improving bone strength. 

Help in Making Collagen

Silica helps to form collagen, an important protein that is found in your skin, blood, and muscles. Moreover, it is useful in keeping your skin elastic. In addition, it also prevents the structural tissues of your organs and joints.

Boost the Immune System and Decrease Heart Diseases

Silica also helps to have a healthy heart by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis while having lower cholesterol. It also boosts the immune response which helps to control the swelling in the body.

Safety Tips While Using Silicon Dioxide Food

Is silica or silicon dioxide safe to consume? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), silicon dioxide in food supplements is not harmful to human consumption. But only when you will consume it in a limited amount.

However, people should also be noted that there are different grades of silica. The silica used by the producer to make cement is not the same as the silica found as food.

Additionally, the FDA also regulates how companies use silica in food. Moreover, the FDA allows manufacturers to use silicon dioxide in a small amount, and the amount does not exceed 2 percent of the weight of the food.

Side Effects of Silicon Dioxide

Side Effects of Silicon Dioxide

These are some of the side effects of silica:

  • Lower Blood Sugar
  • Kidney Dysfunction
  • Vitamin Deficiency
  • Silicosis 
  • Polyuria

In addition, these are some of the adverse side effects of silica. If you take  silica for a long period of time, it may cause many lung conditions such as:

  • Increased risk of tuberculosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD

However, long-term use of silica may also lead to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases.

Signs of Deficiency of Silicon Dioxide

These are the possible signs that could signify the deficient level of silicon dioxide in the body.

  • Regular hair fall
  • Fragile and weakened nails 
  • Osteoporosis such as weakened bones leading to fractures
  • Reduction in the flexibility of bone joints

Signs of Overdose of Silica

As we all know that silica’s role in the body is still unexplained. But according to the European Food Safety Authority, there are no adverse side effects are seen even at a high dose of 9,000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

But if you use (or work) it for a long period (a few months), there is a higher chance you get a disease called silicosis. It occurs when dust enters the lungs and starts forming scar over tissue which reduces the lung’s ability to extract oxygen from the air.

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Summary

In short, Silicon dioxide is a naturally occurring compound. It exists in plants, animals, in humans, and also in the earth’s crust. There is no such evidence that proves that silica is dangerous as a food additive. However, inhaling silicon dust is very dangerous for humans who are working in mining, construction, etc.

In general, silica is useful to prevent foods from sticking together in lumps or to absorb alcohol and provides protection against moisture. However, it also helps in bone formation and also helps to make collagen in the skin. While, the most common side effects of silicon dioxide are lower blood sugar, vitamin deficiency, silicosis, and polyuria.

Also, as per the FDA, there are guidelines for using silicon dioxide as food additives. And, at last, the following are some general FAQ that users may ask on Google.

General FAQ

What are the uses of silicon dioxide?

Ans. Silicon dioxide is used by many food industries as an anti-caking agent to absorb water.

Why silica vapors are bad for you?

Ans. When silicon vapors reach the lungs, it can cause serious lung diseases such as silicosis and lung cancer.

What foods are high in silica?

Ans. Foods that contain a high level of silica are oatmeal, brown rice, cereals, bananas, mangos, green beans, spinach, etc.

What are the side effects of silica?

Ans. The side effects of silica are lower blood sugar, kidney dysfunction, increased risk of tuberculosis, lung cancer, and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What are the signs of silicosis?Double Vision: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Ans. The sign of silicosis are rapid breathing, fatigue, dyspnea, cough, the gradual darkening of the skin (blue skin), fever, weight loss, and chest pain

Double Vision: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment