Diatomaceous earth… Have you heard of it?
Health enthusiasts all over the internet are clamoring around this stuff. But is it as good as people are saying? Let’s have a quick look.
Quickly recapping what Diatomaceous Earth or “DE" is…
DE is entirely made of silica, which originated from the
fossilized remains of microscopic aquatic plants called diatoms. Over thousands
of years, these diatoms have accumulated in the sediment of rivers, lakes, and
oceans turning into the natural substance silica (remember this because it’s
Given its origin, DE is gaining popularity as a natural
alternative for many things. For example:
- It’s VERY absorbent soaking up 1.1 times its
body weight in water, which makes it great for cleaning up spills
- Its abrasive properties also make it ideal as a
facial mask to clear away dead skin and excess oils
- DE can also be used to control pests as its
properties can dry out the exoskeletons of ants, bed bugs, and other nasty
Diatomaceous earth (if used correctly) can be a great thing.
but problems can occur when you start mishandling the substance.
Types of Diatomaceous Earth and What To Watch Out For
Did you know there are 3 main variants of DE being sold on
- Food grade (slightly dangerous if used
- Pest Control Grade (dangerous if used incorrectly)
Pool Grade (VERY
dangerous if used incorrectly)
To be clear, they are NOT the same and each should be
handled in slightly different ways to avoid any possible sickness.
Food Grade DE Overview
Food grade DE is the stuff farmers use to keep worms from developing
in their livestock. It is made of amorphous silica and farmers include in their
animal’s feed, which will then pass through the animal’s digestive system and
clean them of harmful parasites or worms.
This is great, because it keeps animals healthy!
This benefit has migrated over to the mainstream market and
now regular people are putting tablespoons of this stuff in water bottles and
There are no scientifically tested reports that drinking it
has any real effects on humans, but there are countless “health groups" that
swear by it.
Pest Control Grade DE Overview
Now we are getting into more dangerous territory.
Pest control DE is NOT the same as food grade DE.
There are some companies that market food grade DE as a bug
killer, which it can technically do, but that is not the purpose it was
This creates confusion however when other companies specifically
sell pest control DE and people try to EAT IT thinking it is the food grade
The main difference between Food Grade DE and Pest Control
Grade DE is the chemical additives included in the pest control variant to
enhance its bug killing effects.
Due to those special additives, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), is required to
approve any product that is marketed to kill pests, which includes diatomaceous
Pool Grade DE
The final grade that is most often used is “Pool Grade",
which is specifically made for pool filters.
Again, the same problem can occur with people getting
confused between the different types.
Pool Grade DE contains mostly crystalline silica, which if
inhaled has been known to cause silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis, as well
as other health related issues (source).
Again… people can get confused, because to an uneducated
consumer, diatomaceous earth sounds the same regardless of type.
So What Should You Do?
Always handle DE with care, regardless of type.
None of the variants should be inhaled.
Food grade can be eaten, but there is no scientific evidence
that DE will benefit you in anyway.
Pest control grade should only be used according to its
label and NEVER be eaten. If
using pest control DE, place it in areas of your home that will go undisturbed
away from foot traffic or wind. Also make sure to only apply a thin layer in
the affected areas. If you apply too much, the bugs will simply walk around it.
Pool grade should only be used to clean pools, end of story.
Never attempt to eat or use pool grade DE to kill bugs.
I hope this quick DE synopsis is helpful. For more
information on each type, I encourage you to read my
full article by clicking here.
Shane Dutka is the founder of Pest
Strategies, a website resource providing guides and articles on pest
removal best practices.
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