Diatomaceous earth, which is also known as diatomite or D.E. is actually a naturally occurring white colored soft sedimentary rock that can be easily crumbled to form a fine powder. The particle size of D.E. in nature varies between 10 to 200 micrometer, and the processed element might have even a finer granule size. The diatomaceous earth powder has a low density and high porosity which makes it a great absorbing agent.
The typical chemical composition of naturally occurring diatomaceous earth includes 80 to 90% silica, along with 0.5 to 2% oxides of iron and 2 to 4 % aluminum.
D.E. is actually the fossilized remains of diatoms, a particular from of single celled microscopic algae. The amorphous silica remains of the algae accumulated as marine sediments, after years of degeneration the remains turn to diatomaceous earth.
Multiple Uses of D.E.
• In industry
D.E. has different types of use in the Industry. It is often used as a filler to temporarily inactivate certain highly active chemicals, like nitroglycerin in its raw form, for the sake of transport. It is also used as a filter medium particularly in swimming pools. In chemistry it is used for filtering fine particles. It is also used for the filtration of drinking water, beer and wine.
Use of D.E. in toothpaste and polishes is well spread due to its mildly abrasive nature. Due to it’s high absorbing capacity, Diatomite is used as an excellent absorbent for cleaning toxic chemicals. It is also used in absorbing ethylene gas for controlling decay of fruits, and is often used as a filter medium along with refrigeration for the best results.
• In agriculture
Diatomite is extensively used as an insecticide in agriculture. The fine Diatomite powder is capable to absorb lipids from the fat based outer layer of the exoskeleton of the insects, killing them by dehydrating. Arthropods are also killed by this element due to the water pressure deficiency created by this absorbent material. It can also be used for controlling and elimination of dust mite, cockroaches, flea and ant. Application of natural D.E. in grain storage as an anti-caking agent is common.
• In medicine
The medical-grade D.E. is sometimes used for de-worming of both animals and humans. In homeopathy silica supplements made with diatomaceous earth are very popular for detoxification.
• In cosmetics
The microscopic matrix of diatomaceous earth makes it capable of absorbing as much as 1.1 times water of its own weight. It is also capable to absorb oils, hence it is often used in facial masks and cosmetics since it gives an oil free finish.
Different Grades of D.E.
Diatomaceous earth is commonly available in two grades; the food grade and the non-food grade. The non- food grade diatomaceous earth is mainly used for industrial purposes and has a wide application. On the other hand the food-grade or human-grade D.E. is specially produced for consumption of human or pets.
The food-grade D.E. can also be used for killing pests in agricultural products, as an anti-caking agent in food items and to the live-stock. The food grade, specially produced D.E. when consumed by humans can offer excellent results in detoxifying and purifying the body offering good health and vigor.