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Hey, Matt:

Inside my new VCR box I found a small pouch labeled as silicate for desiccation, and it also said "Do Not Eat." Not that I would ever eat silicate, but what exactly would happen if I did?

--Curious, Carlsbad

Not much. You might make one of those ugh-this-tastes-awful faces. You might have a little trouble swallowing it if you don't wash it down with a big glass of water. But silica gel is an inert substance, like manmade sand, and nontoxic. Have some flowers you want to preserve? Have some roaches you want to kill? Silica gel can handle both. If that little pouch isn't enough for you, you can pick up vats of the stuff at a hardware or arts-and-crafts store. It says "Do Not Eat" because the manufacturer's lawyers see the world as one big product liability lawsuit waiting to happen. I'm sure somewhere on a package of steel wool or wine glasses or zebra-stripe car upholstery it says "Do Not Eat." And I guess my lawyers know those lawyers, because they tell me I have to put "Do Not Eat Silica Gel" on my package too.

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