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 important).

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 critters

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 the market?

  • Food grade (slightly dangerous if used incorrectly)
  • 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 drinking it.

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 designed for.

This creates confusion however when other companies specifically sell pest control DE and people try to EAT IT thinking it is the food grade variant.

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 earth.

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.

About the Author
Shane Dutka is the founder of 
Pest Strategies, a website resource providing guides and articles on pest removal best practices.

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