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Blue Crystals from Diatomaceous Earth??? Or problem in the water???  RSS feed

 
Geoffrey Angle
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Location: Farmville, VA
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Hi, Everyone!

Recently purchased Food Grade diatomaceous earth from the recommended folks at Earthworks Health that Paul has promoted in his article on DE. Wife and I intended to use it to start a detox regimen. When I first mixed up a teaspoon with a glass of water, I found some blue crystals at the bottom and thought, "Great...I must have gotten a cup that had dishwasher soap residue in it...."

All fine and dandy, except that the crystals appeared in every subsequent glass since (don't worry, there weren't many). I can watch the reaction occur when I stir it in, the crystals form instantly. They are definitely not present in the mix. I sent some pictures to the nice folks at Earthworks, and they feel confident there isn't any contamination in their product, though they are going to send me some more free of charge.

So I've begun the bureaucratic runaround with my extension agency (I live in Farmville, Virginia) to see about getting my water tested. It being Friday, it might as well be Sunday, or so it seems. They have referred me to the Health Department for a testing kit. So as usual, no one is really listening to me. I'm making some other inquiries to some local ranchers I know, but I doubt they use DE themselves.

The blue crystals are not in my water already. In other words, I don't think there is an issue with the anode in the water heater, it's only a year old anyway. My concern is that it could be copper sulphate, a pesticide. We don't seem to have any apparent health issues, and have been living and drinking the water for well over a year. Yes, it's well water, and all we had it tested for was bacteria. We don't use any pesticides, and I don't think the previous owner did any gardening or farming. Our neighbor does however, but I doubt its on a scale that could affect the water table.

What appears to be happening is an instant chemical reaction between the DE and my well water. What I want to find out as soon as possible is if it is a symptom of something potentially harmful in my water supply and what steps to pursue to find out.

Any help from the super-sleuths at Permies would be GREATLY appreciated.

Geoff
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Blue crystals
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Blue Crystals w penny for scale
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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They look like copper sulphate crystals to me, although they are forming is less clear. It could be that the DE is providing crystalisation nuclei for the copper sulphate that is already in your water, but you would have to have a fairly serious contamination for it to occur.

If you can get hold of any distilled water (garages have it for use in car radiator systems) or collect some rainwater you could do a controlled test and see if the cause is your tap water or the DE itself.
 
Geoffrey Angle
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Location: Farmville, VA
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So, to check things out a little further, I tried mixing the DE in some Crystal Springs bottled water, and the crystals formed again. I tried in distilled water and only a tiny blue crystal formed. I am using the same proportions of water to DE, and the same type of container, small canning jars. Beginning to think it might be what the jars are washed in (the dishwasher soap), or the DE itself...
 
Geoffrey Angle
Posts: 6
Location: Farmville, VA
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Lastly,

Got three new, out of the package, unwashed jelly jars and repeated the experiment. Tsp of DE added to my well water, Crystal Springs and Distilled. Blue crystals formed in all. So, not my dishwasher soap I would think. This puts it back on the DE?
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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That does indeed sound like a contaminated batch of DE then. Very worrying if it is a food grade product.

I'd consider reporting this to whatever regulatory authorities are in your area if you are convinced. Contamination in food grade materials is a big deal. For certain, those crystals shouldn't be forming from something people consume!
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Copper sulfate is quite soluble, so you are not going to have blue crystals sitting at the bottom of your glass unless the solution in it is saturated, which would be a dark, dark blue. I take it that after you stop stirring, the solvent (water) is still colorless.

The fact that this precipitate (can I call it a precipitate? does the solution go cloudy and then it takes time for the precipitate to settle out?) forms even with distilled water would lead me to start looking for insoluble salts of that color. It could be that the anion was in one batch of diatomaceous earth and the cation was in another batch, and when they blended it together at the factory, it was just waiting for a glass of water for the anion to find the cation and precipitate out.

What happens when you hit the precipitate with an acid? Like vinegar or lemon juice?
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I have been following this thread to see the mystery solved I am curious about the spoon in the picture, it almost looks a goldish color, so I wondered if it was silver plate with some of the plate missing and not stainless steel?...could it be reacting with something?
 
Michael Cox
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John may be on to something - dry compounds that react when they get wet - but food grade DE is supposed to be essentially pure silica crystals. You'd have to have a pretty heavy contamination to get crystals of the size you have seen.

Also, I'm not sure what it would be other Han copper sulphate - a google search hasn't come up with any obvious candidates for look-alikes.
 
John Elliott
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Michael, I don't have a guess either. But whatever it is, it ain't SiO2!
 
duane hennon
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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the crystals do look like copper sulfate
I'm surprised the company isn't more concerned

I have some food grade DE
perma guard brand
I bought from Arbico Organics

I mixed some with water but didn't get crystals (blue or otherwise)


maybe you could give some to your friends to try
and see if they get blue crystals with their water, glasses and spoons
that could help pinpoint the cause
if they get blue crystals then it's the DE
 
Geoffrey Angle
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Location: Farmville, VA
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Ok, finally found some resolution to the problem:

1. Feeling rather stupid for not sifting DE for crystals in the first place. After consulting with a friend who has a degree in chemistry, he suggested, as did others that in order to form such large and well formed crystals (if copper sulfate), the water would have to be saturated, hence, blue. The water was never blue.

2. So, in sifting through a fine sieve, the crystals showed up. Same friend thought they might be silica gel, as in a pack of desiccant tore open and spilled in.

3. I wrote the company back. Turns out I was right about what the crystals were (dumb luck). It is copper sulfate in that batch. The company repackages it and somehow it must have spilled in...caught caught in a fold of clothing or something...

4. The company has been very quick to respond, and like I said, sent me a new batch, copper sulfate free... They have also assured me they have changed their procedure to insure this would never happen again.

Thanks for all the interest, it's always fun sleuthing with the members of Permies!
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Copper Sulphate is water soluble, so if the crystals got wet, they would have turned the water some shade of blue.
 
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