Short-term inhalation of diatomaceous earth poses no serious health risk. Fresh air and rest should alleviate the symptoms of respiratory irritation caused by brief exposure to the dust. A dust mask or respirator should be used to avoid the dangers of long-term exposure to diatomaceous earth.
Health Hazards of Diatomaceous Earth
Short-term inhalation of diatomaceous earth presents no serious health concern; however, diatomaceous earth does contain crystalline silica. According to the State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, long-term exposure to high levels of crystalline silica-containing dust has been linked to a disease of the lungs called “silicosis.”
Types of Diatomaceous Earth
There are two types of diatomaceous earth, natural and heat-treated. Heat-treated diatomaceous earth, the type used in pool filters, is processed in a manner that greatly increases the amount of crystalline silicate in the dust. As such, treated diatomaceous earth is more of an inhalation hazard than the natural form.
Symptoms of Diatomaceous Earth Inhalation
Exposure to any type of diatomaceous earth may cause temporary respiratory irritation with symptoms like coughing, sneezing or itching of the throat and nose.
Treatment of Diatomaceous Earth Inhalation
The Pesticide Action Network recommends treating inhalation of diatomaceous earth with fresh air and rest. If symptoms continue, the patient should seek the advice of a physician.
Preventing Diatomaceous Earth Inhalation
Dust masks or respirators should be used while handling diatomaceous earth to minimize the chances of inhalation.