Breathed in some DE, coughing again


9 Years
Apr 20, 2010
New Brunswick, Canada
So I had to clean the meat coop because it was getting pretty gross and outta hand in there due to our run not being finished and the birds being kept indoors
I had put some DE in there a while ago in my attempt to try and hold them off for a cleaning.
Since that was awhile ago I completely forgot about it (and my kids tore up my mask, they are 1 & 2 years old) anyway, It started a couple of hours after i cleaned the coop. The first time this happened I didn't even know why i was coughing until I came across this thread and coughed for three days... now i recognize it. and its because of the DE. Is this cause for concern. Should i do anything about it?
This is an excerpt from a professional paper on "Inert Dusts" at Kansas State University ( that reassured me, although I realize people are pretty polarized about the safety of DE (I added remarks in bold):

"The absorbent qualities of diatomite can result in a significant drying of the hands if handled without gloves. The flux-calcined form contains a highly crystalline form of silica, resulting in sharp edges. The sharpness of this version of the material makes it dangerous to breathe and a dust mask is recommended when working with it. (THIS IS POOL-GRADE D.E.)

The type of hazard posed by inhalation depends on the form of the silica. (WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS BUY ONLY FOOD-GRADE D.E.) Crystalline silica poses a serious inhalation hazard because it can cause silicosis. Amorphous silica can cause dusty lungs, but does not carry the same degree of risk as crystalline silica. Natural or dried diatomite generally contains very low percentages of crystalline silica. Diatomite produced for pool filters is treated with high heat (calcining) and a fluxing agent (soda ash), causing the formerly amorphous silicon dioxide to assume its crystalline form.

The crystalline silica content of the dusts 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."

So, yes, you might have the coughing from "dusty lungs," but that's a temporary situation, much like smoke inhalation. It does NOT mean you are going to develop silicosis.
It's not really particularly different from any other dust, e.g. from a dusty dirt road or if you were shovelling sand for an hour or two. No long-term effects expected from a brief exposure. In future though it would be real wise to a) use less
and b) wear a mask.

Good luck, have fun,


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