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National Diatomaceous Earth Day

Today we recognize the diatom and the mineral it creates, diatomaceous earth, which is sometimes known simply as diatomite or DE. Diatoms are microalgae with a single cell. They are perhaps most known for making about 75% of the world's oxygen. After diatoms die and fall to the bottom of bodies of water, their organic parts weather away and small, porous, and opal skeletons called frustules are left. Frustules form the diatomaceous earth, a siliceous sedimentary rock that is made up of about 80 to 90% silica and small amounts of aluminum oxide and iron oxide. It crumbles easily into a white or off-white powder.

Diatomaceous earth continues to be formed today, but some deposits date back millions of years. It can be found around the world and is primarily mined in the United States, Chile, Peru, Mexico, France, Spain, Denmark, and China. The largest deposits in the United States were formed in ancient lakes in Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington and can be found there. Large deposits can also be found in the oceans on the coasts of North and South America.

Ancient Greeks used diatomaceous earth as an abrasive and as a building material for bricks. However, it wasn't identified at the time. It was later discovered by Peter Kasten in North Germany around 1836 CE, while he was sinking a well. Most diatomaceous earth came from North Germany until World War I.

Diatomaceous earth is known for its filtration and polishing properties, and for its stabilizing qualities. It is used to filter swimming pools, as well as to filter beer, wine, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food. It is used as an abrasive in toothpaste and metal polishes, and to give flatting to flat paint. It prevents blocking in plastic film, and is used as an insecticide and to absorb oil during spills. "Food grade" diatomaceous earth can even be eaten.

How to Observe

EP Minerals, the creators of National Diatomaceous Earth Day, say the day can be used to learn more about diatomaceous earth. The best way to do this may be to use it, so pick some up! Food grade diatomaceous earth can be consumed, and diatomaceous earth has many other home uses that make the day easy to celebrate.

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