Silica gel packets are used extensively both in the personal and commercial sectors for their excellent capacity to absorb moisture and help in their preservation. They can also prevent damage of valuable products during shipping and storage.
Some of the advanced varieties of silica gel packets are also capable of preventing the formation of mold, mildew, rust and corrosion. In fact, silica gel has the best desiccant properties. It prevents the formation of moisture in various materials that can further encourage the growth of mold and spoil valuable materials. Silica gels can in fact also prevent condensation that may harm electronic equipments. You can also find drug manufacturers using these silica gel packets to prevent the decomposition of medicines like vitamin pills for quite sometime.
Small silica gel packets are also used to maintain the relative humidity (RH) inside a high frequency radio or satellite transmission system. They are also being increasingly used today in industrial compressed air systems to absorb moisture from the air. This prevents damage at the point of use of the compressed air that may happen due to condensation or moisture. This is very effective in railway locomotives, where moisture filled compressed air in the brake pipes may result in brake failure.
You would also find silica gel packets in museums and libraries for better storage and as a preservation tool to control relative humidity. Even in the medical industry it is used extensively in varied application areas like diagnostic test strips, syringes, bacteria & hospital sanitation kits, inhalation devices, drug test kits, and all sorts of moisture sensitive device.
However, these silica gel packets are not without their hazards. Though they are known to be non-toxic under ordinary circumstances, yet they are highly reactive when they come in contact with hydrogen fluoride, strong bases, strong acids and oxidizers. And they cause irritation to the respiratory tract as well the digestive tract depending on the amount of exposure. It has been found that dust from these beads cause skin as well as eye irritation. So it is recommended that silica gel packets should be used judiciously and direct exposure to it should be avoided.