By: Russell Blauert
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is fast becoming a mainstream way to combat problems with insects, and especially fleas. After spending a few minutes reading this article you will understand the origins and history of DE use, the differences between food grade (CODEX) diatomaceous earth and industrial grade, the actual way that DE kills insects, and common uses for today's pet owners.
Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of silica "shelled" algae, known as diatoms. After extracted from the earth through mining the material is filtered and powered to make what we know as diatomaceous earth. It is white in color and very powdery and light.
DE was discovered in the mid-1800's and was initially put to use as a very mild abrasive in toothpastes and polishes for metal. Soon a more widespread use was found as a filtering agent in industrial applications. You may have heard of diatomaceous earth sold for pool filters in home improvement stores. Pool-grade DE is generally very inexpensive because of the quality or purity of the product. This brings up the very important subject of the differences between industrial grade and food grade diatomaceous earth.
First off, I want to say that you should always consult an expert on any personal health questions you may have. I am NOT an expert on DE or it's uses. I am just offering my opinion on how I personally use the product. The main difference between industrial DE and food grade is that food grade is less than 1% crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is produced by a heating process. Crystalline silica is HARMFUL to humans and animals if inhaled or ingested. Food grade DE has less than 1% crystalline silica by weight and is generally considered safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends DE be less than 2% crystalline to be safe. Industrial, or pool grade, can contain 94% or higher of the crystalline stuff. This is why it is very important to buy food grade for home use.
I know people who ingest DE for benefits to their health and they swear by the stuff. I can tell you though, I would not ingest diatomaceous earth for any reason and do not recommend it. That's just me. Make your own decision on that.
Ok, now down to the reasons I use diatomaceous earth. It is a proven, safe and effective insect killer. If you do not want to use chemicals in your house to treat for fleas, ants and bedbugs then food grade, otherwise known as CODEX grade, diatomaceous earth is probably the best alternative. It uses a physical action as opposed to a chemical action to kill insects. As an insect with an exoskeleton crawls through an area with DE it's hard shell is microscopically cut by the "sharp" edges of the silica. It is only harmful to insects with shells. Humans and animals are not affected by the silica in any way except for a slight drying action that silica causes. After the insect's shell is cut the insect will dry out and die. Again, this is a completely physical action that happens. No chemical processes take place and thus is very safe for you, your kids and your pets.
This physical process will take about two days to complete so plan ahead or have a little patience while the DE works it's magic. My family uses it as a sort of barrier around the house and around our shop. Also, you can put it inside your mattress to fight bed bugs and anywhere else you have insect problems. You can also put the powder directly on your pet's coat to kill fleas. Make sure it's the food grade DE and understand that it will dry your pet's skin slightly.
For more info read the info on this site: http://www.perma-guard.com/index.php