Diatomaceous earth is approved for use in food, but poses an inhalation hazard because it can cause silicosis. Natural or dried diatomite generally contains crystalline silica. Diatomite produced for pool filters is treated with high heat (calcining) and a fluxing agent (soda ash), causing the formerly silicon dioxide to assume its crystalline form. A mask is necessary for working with DE products.
The crystalline silica content of the dust's particulate is regulated in the United States by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and there are guidelines for the maximum amounts allowable in the product and in the air near the breathing zone of workers.
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