Diatomaceous Earth is simply the fossilized remains of Diatoms. Diatoms are microscopic single cell algae that live in oceans, fresh water and soil. These single-celled organisms create a cell wall made of silica (silicon dioxide) while they live, and when they die in water, they create deposits on the sea or lake floor. These deposits accumulate over time and some are now mined to produce Diatomaceous Earth for industrial, agricultural and domestic use. There are several varieties of Diatomaceous Earth, but the most common available for purchase are:
- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, which is mined from fresh water deposits and may be used as an anti-caking agent in grain storage and animal feed, as a mechanical pesticide, as a soil conditioner in gardening, as an abrasive in products like toothpaste, facial scrubs, polishes and shampoos, as a dietary supplement and more. Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, also known as amorphous silica, is not calcinated (heat treated), has a very small particle size, and has a very low crystalline silica content (less than 2%). Due to Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth's low crystalline silica content, it is considered safe to ingest and although as a fine powder it may irritate the lungs, it will not do permanent damage.
- Pool or Filter Grade Diatomaceous Earth is, as the name implies, often used to filter pools, beer, wine and other liquids. It is usually heat treated and has a high crystalline silica content. Crystalline silica is very dangerous to breathe and can cause lung damage.