A single magnified diatom
Diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, is a sedimentary rock found in large deposits worldwide and mined primarily in the United States, Mexico, Chile, Peru, France, Spain, Denmark, and China. Northern Nevada has several large, high-purity deposits mined by EP Minerals, a U.S. Silica company. The DE is developed into hundreds of products used around the globe by the world's largest companies.
The diatoms that are forming today - the single-celled plants that make up the diatomaceous earth - are truly the lungs of the earth, in that they produce about three quarters of the world’s new oxygen supply. See, DE is a really big deal!
Diatomaceous earth rocks at EP Minerals' Lovelock mine
While new DE is still forming today, some of the deposits of diatomaceous earth were formed 10-12 million of year ago. Diatomaceous earth deposits are formed as diatoms (algae), die, and fall to the bottom of bodies of water. Over time, the organic portions of the diatoms weather away, and the remaining opal frustules form diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is used for filtration (for beer, wine, swim pool, edible oil, and pharmaceuticals), as a functional additive (for paint, coatings, rubber & plastics) and as an insecticide, and animal feed additive.
Matt Mueller, the culture editor for OnMilwaukee, is obviously fascinated by diatomaceous earth and is pretty excited about National Diatomaceous Earth Day. An excerpt from his column:
Why not end the month on a celebratory note with that time-honored holiday: National Diatomaceous Earth Day, a day dedicated to that natural mineral you use to filter your swimming pool and repel insects. Who doesn't remember, as a child, working on your National Diatomaceous Earth Day costume (aka a big slab of construction paper made to look like a rock)? And gathering the family around the table for that classic National Diatomaceous Earth Day meal (aka licking rock salt)? And reading those beloved holiday stories (aka Peter Kasten's "Thesis on the Absorbency and Stabilizing Qualities of Diatomaceous Earth")? All jokes aside, you should definitely still throw a party for this holiday. For one, this stuff is commonly used in the filtration of beer. And secondly, it opens the doors for a lot of tremendously groan-able "rock this party" puns.
Fun stuff! This Saturday, August 31, is National Diatomaceous Earth Day. There are over a million reasons to celebrate DE!