Is /npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html"">Diatomaceous Earth part of your survival plan? After TEOTWAWKI, it will be necessary to re-establish many things, including a sustainable food source. Hunting and scavenging for food will be part of this process, but gardening will also play a very large role. With gardens, however, come garden pests, and diatomaceous earth is rumored to be a solution to pest problems of all kinds. It is not without its own set of drawbacks, however.
What is diatomaceous earth, anyway? DE is not something you will come across during your travels in a normal day. You cannot walk outside and simply find some up in your backyard. DE is the result of microscopic sea organisms dying, fossilizing, and becoming one with nutrients in the ground. These organisms are known as diatoms. A diatom is unicellular group of algae (a common type of phytoplankton) with cellular walls made of hydrated silicon dioxide, or silica. When these organisms are harvested from the earth, DE is produced.
Diatomaceous earth is widely used as a pest repellant in the fight against fleas, ticks, lice, mites, spiders, ants, cockroaches, earwigs, and other crawling insects that can be harmful to produce, pets, and people. It works by dehydrating pests and compromising their respiratory system after penetrating their bodily exterior and inhibiting the function of shells or exoskeletons. It does not have to be ingested, requiring only physical contact to work on pests. Simply sprinkle it in trouble areas or mix with water and spray.
While DE is 'generally recognized as safe' by the FDA, it is not without potential complications in humans when inhaled. When spreading DE, always be sure to wear a mask to prevent accidental inhalation. Breathing DE can cause irritation of nasal passages and even lung discomfort. It can also cause skin and eye irritation due to the abrasive, coarse nature of its particles. DE is rapidly expelled from the body both when inhaled and consumed, especially in the case of amorphous diatomaceous earth. Crystalline diatomaceous earth, however, contains a finer grain and can accumulate in lungs and lymph nodes, possibly resulting in chronic bronchitis, silicosis, and other respiratory problems after prolonged exposure. Most diatomaceous earth is amorphous as opposed to crystalline, but amorphous DE can still cause lung irritation, so exercise caution while using DE regardless of type.
Speaking of consumption, eating DE is rumored to have many health benefits as well. For one, it is said to work as a natural de-wormer when fed to animals. Claims have been made that it can make your teeth and gums healthier and your hair shinier. Cholesterol and blood pressure numbers have been reported to go down as well. Much of this has been reported in the forms of /www.earthworkshealth.com/human-use.php"">testimonials, however, without a lot of readily available research to back it up, so take it with a grain of salt and like all things, try it at your own risk. Also, if you do wish to consume DE, be sure to buy food grade and not industrial.
In the changing world we may someday face, diatomaceous earth could be something useful to our survival. When you are rebuilding a vegetable food source, the last thing you need is to be enveloped in a constant battle with insects to retain that food source. Utilizing DE can solve that problem, but remember to be mindful of the damage it can do to you in the process. Read all labels and follow handling instructions to minimize harm. You may ultimately decide to avoid DE altogether, but it is worthy of considering due to the usefulness it poses in a world where many modern conveniences will be nothing more than memories.