Diatomaceous Earth Silica
Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring sedimentary deposit that is made up the cell walls of ancient, fossilized diatoms. Also known as diatomite, in the United States these deposits are found primarily in California and along the rest of the west coast, in areas that used to be covered by the prehistoric Inland Sea like Nevada and Nebraska and in the northeastern states. Large quantities of diatomite also occur around the rest of the world. China, Russia, Iceland and the Middle East all have large deposits.
Diatomaceous Earth Diatoms
Diatoms are a type of algae. The cell walls of these single celled organisms are composed of silica, what amounts to a naturally made glass. When the diatoms die, their glass shells sink to the bottom and accumulate over time. After centuries of accumulation, the weight causes the shell walls to crack and fracture. The fine pores and broken glass structure of diatomaceous earth yields a number of interesting and useful properties.
Diatomaceous Earth Silica Uses
Diatomaceous earth is a fantastic abrasive. It is included in brass and silver polishes. In the past, it was added to tooth powders. However, since it is such a good abrasive, this is no longer the case as it will take the enamel right off your teeth.
Diatomaceous earth is also used in pest control. It is harmless to warm blooded animals (including humans), but is highly lethal to animals with an exoskeleton. Organic gardeners will sprinkle it around plants to keep away slugs, snails and insects. The sharp, glasslike structure will cut their bodies, often killing them.
Small amounts of food grade diatomite can also be added to animal feed to control internal parasites, killing them as it passes through the digestive system. This can also have the added benefit of fly control, as it gets mixed into the animal droppings. When flies land on the droppings, the diatomaceous earth will also cut their bodies.
Due to the pores in the cell walls, diatomaceous earth also makes an excellent filter. Many beers, white wines, sugars, syrups and other products are filtered using this material. It has also been used as a natural deodorizer and stain remover.
Diatomite is also a natural desiccant. This also adds to its lethal nature against slugs and insects, and also makes it useful for moisture control. It is often used in grain storage due to its drying nature, coupled with its lack of toxicity to humans and other large animals.
Some swimming pools also have diatomaceous earth filtration systems, although this is not the same as food grade diatomaceous earth. It has been treated and processed and is considered toxic.