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China Environment

8-Year-Old Boy Loses Eye After Playing with Desiccant ‘Dry Pack’

One Chinese mother is on a mission to warn other parents that this small packet can pose a big risk.

Manya Koetse

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Most are familiar with those little “do not eat” packets that can be found in various food and household items packaging, but their potential danger might be less well-known. A Chinese mum is now warning others to keep the dry packs away from children after her son lost his eye because of them.

An 8-year-old boy named Keke was recently blinded in one eye after playing around with a desiccant pack. Keke’s mother is now seeking media attention for his case to warn others not to make the same mistake.

According to Chinese media, the incident occurred just after the mid-term exam period, when Keke was enjoying some snacks on the couch while watching cartoons. His mother was busy cooking in the kitchen when she heard Keke screaming. As she rushed towards him, she saw that something was terribly wrong with his eye. She saw a deformed bottle filled with fluid on the floor and hurried her son to the hospital.

Keke’s mother recounts: “After the examination, the doctor told us that Keke’s right eye tissue was completely dissolved by an alkaline fluid (..), and that there was nothing to do about it.”

“When the doctor asked how the accident happened, my son told him that he found a small packet in his bag of snacks and that he had played around with it. He first smelled it, and then later put it inside a bottle that contained his beverage. He had never expected the bottle to explode shortly afterward.”

The moment some fluid entered his right eye, the little boy lost his eyesight and felt immense pain. Shocking photos shown by a local Chinese tv station show that the boy’s eye has been severely damaged by the acid fluid.

Keke’s parents later found out the ‘small packet’ mentioned by Keke was, in fact, a food desiccant (食品干燥剂), which is used to keep products dry and in good condition.

Desiccant packs are usually made with silica gel grains, which can adsorb up to 40% of their weight in moisture. It is useful for keeping things dry and ‘sucking up’ excess moisture. It is generally not considered to be harmful; the big “do not eat” warnings are more about choking hazard than the packets being toxic. Apart from coming with new shoes or electronics, the little packets can also often be found in various snacks (such as the Japanese nori seaweed).

Keke has completely lost vision in his right eye after the eye tissue was dissolved by the acid fluid.

On Weibo, news about the boy has generated much discussion, especially after it was shared by People’s Daily. “If this stuff is so dangerous, then why is it not replaced by something that is safe?” a typical comment said.

A very similar news item made headlines in China in August 2015, when a 5-year-old boy was also blinded in one eye because of a desiccant pack when he put a package inside a pet bottle, causing it to explode.

Public health professor Liu Ping (刘萍) from Shandong University explained to Iqilu.com at the time that apart from the silica gel desiccants, there is also another type of desiccants which is made from calcium oxide (氧化钙), also known as quicklime. Cheaper than silica gel, it is also commonly used but is also relatively more dangerous than silica gel desiccant and other desiccants.

Quicklime desiccant as sold on Alibaba.

Quicklime has a chemical reaction when it is mixed with water, making it possible for a closed bottle with fluid and quicklime to explode. The fluid then becomes dangerously corrosive (as many science experiment tutorials will show).

A Chinese local television station also broadcasted footage today of experiments done with desiccants in bottles, showing that a violent explosion can occur within 80 seconds.

“Why do we use these desiccants at all,” some people wonder on Weibo: “Isn’t a tight seal enough to keep it fresh?”

“These desiccants need to be harmless, odorless, and non-corrosive. Strong alkalic desiccants such as the quicklime one should be eliminated,” one commenter writes: “In Europe and America, the harmless silica gel desiccants are generally used, why do we still need to go through these tragedies? Why are these standards different?”

As for Keke’s mother – she just hopes other parents will now understand the potential dangers of the small packets. “I greatly regret my negligence as a mother,” she told Chinese media: “I knew that you’re not supposed to eat these desiccants, but I never knew they posed such a great risk that could lead to such a severe outcome.”

– By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar

    Fung

    September 25, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    How is the boy doing now?

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China and Covid19

Fresh Off the Boat, Xiamen Fish Are Tested for Covid-19

Catch of the day! These fish in Xiamen can’t escape their daily Covid test.

Manya Koetse

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It does not matter if you’re old or young, shrimp or fish – you can’t escape China’s zero-covid policy.

In the Jimei district of the coastal city of Xiamen, some fish and shrimp also had to do a nucleic acid test this week, leading to some banter on Chinese social media.

In the area, fishermen returning from a day of work have to undergo nucleic acid tests together with some of the fish that they caught during the day.

After the fishermen themselves have done the Covid test, they reportedly have to grab a few fresh fish from their catch of the day for the anti-epidemic workers to test. They open the mouth of the fish so that the fish can be tested with the cotton swab.

Chinese media outlet Sohu (搜狐新闻) posted a video about the issue on its Weibo account on August 17th, receiving over 90,000 likes and more than 8000 shares.

“I thought fish didn’t any lungs?” a popular comment said, with other commenters suggesting that this news made it clear that Covid “doesn’t affect the lungs but the brain instead.”

Another commenter suggested that if this matter concerned authorities, they should also start testing mosquitos.

Some also felt bad for the fish: “They still have to undergo this before getting killed.”

“The fish should be grateful for receiving a Covid test for free,” others wrote, while there were also people who wondered if parts of the sea would go into lockdown mode if some fish would test positive for Covid.

There were also critical commenters wondering about any scientific reasoning behind testing fish, asking who was getting paid to test them – suggesting commercial benefits outweigh scientific basis in this case.

“You can’t get Covid if you don’t have lungs, let alone if you live in the sea,” one Weibo user wrote, another person asking: “Have we all gone mad?”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

Manya Koetse

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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