scientist with beakers
Atapulgite, bentonite and calcium montmorillonate are some examples of alternatives used for full earth. A blend of aluminum, iron, magnesium and silica, fuller’s earth is commonly used by various industries for its absorbent properties that can filter or eliminate greases and oils. Many cultures throughout history have used this clay for medicinal purposes related to its absorbent and possible antimicrobial properties. Some industries use full earth as a generic term referring to any amount of mineral clays.
Fuel, grease and oil manufacturers typically use fuller earth filtration systems that remove contaminants and water from products. Attapulgite clay is also a fine-grained earthy substance with absorbent properties. Industries often refine fuels and lubricants by forcing them through filters containing attapulgite or pouring the substances onto an attapulgite substrate. Toiletries industries use filler earth as an ingredient in cosmetic products due to the substance’s oil-absorbing properties.
Bentonite not only absorbs water and oils, but also acts as a thickening agent in a variety of products, including adhesives, cosmetics, and foods. Contractors can use sodium bentonite as a moisture barrier when building trenches or ponds. As the substance absorbs water, it swells to such proportions that it thickens and forms a plastic-like surface. Bentonite is also a common ingredient in clay-based cat litters.
Since prehistoric times, fuller’s earth has been used as a topical wound dressing or taken as a mineral supplement. The researchers found that bentonite and montmorillonate clays demonstrate antibacterial and antifungal properties against a number of microbial species, including some resistant forms of bacteria. Used as a topical dressing or in the form of a mud bath, clays act as a barrier against invading microbes, eliminating existing infections. Scientists have also developed a topical dressing composed of gauze and kaolin clay that activates clotting mechanisms, minimizing life-threatening blood loss in combat situations.
Pregnant women in primitive cultures took fuller’s earth internally as a vitamin and mineral supplement. Analysis reveals that calcium bentonite and calcium montmorillonate contain calcium, magnesium and potassium. Clays also often contain iron in amounts ranging from 1% to 10%. Fuller’s earth has been used to treat stomach problems and diarrhea, and modern over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications often include attapulgite clay. Clay ingested internally can result in severe constipation.
Film industry companies often use filler earth or, alternatively, pyrolite, for dramatic effects. The substance can be used to create a dirt road over a paved surface, dust scattered in scenes of speeding cars, or the massive amount of dirt seen during explosions. Often, film crews contaminate entire rooms with the substance needed to reproduce decades or centuries of neglect.