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October 2015
Ophir Lavon MD and Yedidia Bentur MD

Background: Exposure to silica gel, a common desiccant, is considered common and non-toxic although data are limited.

Objectives: To evaluate the characteristics of silica gel ingestion, and to attempt to estimate the associated health care costs.

Methods: We conducted a one year retrospective review of charts of a national poison information center to characterize ingestions of silica gel and estimate its direct cost to health care services. Cost evaluation was based on emergency department and community clinic tariffs (NIS 807/US$ 213 and NIS 253/US$ 67, respectively).

Results: A total of 546 cases were recorded, 2.1% of the annual calls to the poison information center. Most ingestions occurred in children younger than 6 years old (91.4%, 65.2% < 2 years). Median monthly exposure was 42; the peak (74) occurred in April, before the Passover holiday. Sixty calls (11%) came from health care facilities and the rest were reported by the public; 2.7% were symptomatic, mainly mild self-limited mouth and throat discomfort. The direct annual treatment cost of patients who referred themselves to health care facilities without consulting first with the Poison Center (n=60) was NIS 24,598/US$ 6507 (emergency department and community clinic visit fees). 

Conclusions: Silica gel ingestion is relatively common, occurring mainly in young children; it is rarely symptomatic but is a source of unnecessary referrals to health care facilities. The potential annual saving by preventing unnecessary referrals due to poison information center advice was estimated at NIS 375,678/US$ 99,383. The availability of poison information center services may prevent unnecessary referrals to health care facilities and thus save costs. 

 

February 2006
A. Peretz, H. Checkoway, J.D. Kaufman, I. Trajber and Y. Lerman

Evidence that crystalline silica is associated with an increased rate of lung cancer led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to conclude in 1997 that crystalline silica is a known human carcinogen. In Israel too, crystalline silica is considered as such. The decision raised a debate in the scientific arena, and a few scientists have questioned the basis upon which causality was determined. We review the literature regarding the level of evidence of crystalline silica carcinogenicity.

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