Diatomaceous earth health benefits (issues)
Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatoms are tiny, aquatic organisms. The
skeletons of diatoms are made of silica. Diatoms accumulated in the sediment of rivers, streams, lakes, and
oceans. Most diatomaceous earth is made of amorphous silicon dioxide, and the first pesticide products
containing silicon dioxide (diatomaceous earth) were registered in 1960 to kill insects and mites. Diatomaceous
earth kills insects by “dry-out” via absorbing the oils and fats from the insects’ exoskeleton.  [Website of Oregon
State University, December 2014]

How does diatomaceous earth impact on our health? In 1997 the International Agency for Research on Cancer
(IARC) classified inhaled crystalline silica as a human carcinogen (group 1). [3] And, there was a trend towards a
higher incidence of lung cancer with longer exposure to crystalline silica. [4]

I do not think, it is a good idea to overdose with diatomaceous earth. Anyway, a few studies show that
diatomaceous earth may have some health benefits. For example, a few studies showed that diatomaceous earth
might have beneficial effects on blood cholesterol. [1, 2]

One more point – Casey TR and Bamforth CW reported that commercial beers ranged from 6.4 to 56.5 mg L(-1)
in silicon. This is related to the raw materials used – hops and barley. [5]

FDA SCOGS Opinion about diatomaceous earth
Silicon dioxide and various silicates occur abundantly in the earth's crust, are present in practically all natural
waters,animals, and plants, and are part of the normal human diet. The question of whether or not silicon is an
essential human nutrient remains unresolved. Silicon compounds consumed as added food ingredients
contribute only a minor proportion of the total dietary silicon intake. The estimated possible human intake of
sodium aluminosilicate, the predominant silicate added to foods in this country, is approximately 0.3mg per kg
body weight per day. Silicon compounds that are GRAS for use as direct food ingredient, except potassium and
sodium silicates, are insoluble or very slightly soluble in water and appear to be biologically inert. The water-
soluble silicates are also of low acute toxicity. The acute oral LD50 in rats of sodium aluminosilicate is >1g per kg.
No significant tissue accumulation, pathology, or toxicity has been reported from the ingestion of those insoluble
or very slightly soluble GRAS silicon compounds for which data are available. Of the five substances that were
reported as added to foods in the NRC survey, biologic effects and safety data are available for all except sodium
calcium aluminosilicate, and there is no reason to suspect that the toxicity of the latter would differ from those for
which there are data. The results of two studies (1967-1970) in which various silicon compounds were fed to
laboratory animals for 1 mo at a level of 0.8g per kg body weight (as silicon dioxide) and for 3 mo at levels of 6 to
30 mg per kg body weight suggests there may be a species-related susceptibility to renal damage from ingestion
of sodium silicate, magnesium trisilicate, and finely ground quartz.

No substantiating reports of these effects have appeared. Magnesium trisilicate was recognized as safe for
prolonged use in human ingestion in large amount as a component of antacid preparations by the Advisory
Review Panel on Over-the-Counter Drugs, and the available evidence on the acute toxicity of sodium silicate
indicates that it is low. Consumption data are lacking for aluminium calcium silicate and tricalcium silicate, two
compounds that are listed as GRAS for use as anticaking agents. However, their use in keeping with good
manufacturing practice and in currently regulated amounts would be of the same order of magnitude as the other
GRAS silicates.

In addition, the Select Committee has limited information on the amounts of talc that are currently used in foods.
However a major food use of talc is in the coating of rice. Assuming package label statements are ignored and
coated rice is not washed prior to cooking and no other losses occur, maximun per capita intake of talc from this
source appears to be 0.5g per day. With respect to paper and cotton food- packaging products, the possibility is
remote that biologically significant amounts of talc, diatomaceous earth, or sodium silicate migrate to food from
packaging, materials containing these substances. Perlite, a naturally occuring polysilicate substance, has an
oral LD50 in the rat of >10g per kg body weight. Estimates of the maximun quantities of minerals that might be
extracted from perlite and diatomaceous earth used as filteraids in food processing indicates no hazard to public
health. There are no food grade specifications for aluminum calcium silicate, sodium calcium aluminosilicate, and
talc. Such specifications for the substances used in foods are desirable.

Specification for food grade talc should limit the content of asbestos fibers even though the potential hazard of
ingested asbestos fibers even though the potential hazard of ingested asbestos is not clearly established. The
Food and Drug Administration is sponsoring the development of an assay method for asbestos fibers. An upper
limit for cadmium should be added to the specifications for food-grade perlite, and consideration should be given
to the need for limitation of cadmium content of other silicates. In the light of all of the foregoing, the Select
Committee concludes that: It is essential to establish food-grade specifications for aluminum calcium silicate,
sodium calcium aluminosilicate, and talc, with provision for an upper limit of asbestos fibers in talc. There is no
evidence in the available information on aluminum calcium silicate, calcium silicate, magnesium silicate,
potassium silicate, sodium silicate, sodium aluminosilicate, sodium calcium aluminosilicate, tricalcium silicate,
silica aerogel, and talc that demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public
when they are used at levels that are now current or that might reasonably be expected in the future. There is no
evidence in the available information on diatomaceous earth, silicon dioxides, sodium silicate, and talc that
demonstrates or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when they are used as
ingredients of paper and paperboard products used in food packaging in accordance with current practice.
There is no evidence in the available information on sodium silicate and talc that demonstrates or suggests
reasonable grounds to suspect a hazard to the public when they are used as ingredients of cotton and cotton
fabrics used in dry food packaging in accordance with current practice. There is no evidence in the available
information on diatomaceous earth and perlite that demonstrates or suggests reasonable ground to suspect a
hazard to the public when they are used as filteraids in food processing at levels that are now current or that
might reasonably be expected in the future.

References
[1] Wachter H et al, Diatomaceous earth lowers blood cholesterol concentrations, Eur J Med Res. 1998 Apr. 8; 3
(4): 211-5.
[2] Gordon V et al, Formation of cholesterol-and apoprotein E-enriched high density lipoproteins in vitro. J Biol
Chem. 1983 May 25; 258(10): 6202-12
[3] Steenland K et al, Pooled exposure-response analyses and risk assessment for lung cancer in 10 cohorts of
silica-exposed workers: an IARC multicentre study, Cancer Causes Control, 2001 Nov; 12(g): 773-84.
[4] Rafrisson V et al, Lung cancer incidence among an Icelandic cohort exposed to diatomaceous earth and
cristobalite. Scand J Work Environ Health, 1997 Jun;23(3): 187-92.
[5] Casey TR, Bamforth CW Silicon in beer and brewing, J Sci Food Agric., 2010 Apr 15; 90(5): 784-8.