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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 020: Calcium: Teeth, bones and cheese

Element 20 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series with the Royal Society of Chemistry is calcium. Found in the body in our bones and teeth, calcium also pops up in cheese-making and construction work.

Bones and teeth are composed of hydroxyapatite, a form of calcium phosphate. The human body contains 1 kilogram of calcium, with 99% of it found in the skeleton. It’s also essential for a handful of other functions in the body, including roles in transmitting nerve signals.

Calcium phosphate also has a role in the softening of cheeses such as camembert. Calcium chloride, meanwhile, is used in the manufacture of some cheeses to ensure the formation of a firm curd.

Calcium also crops up in building and construction materials. Limestone, which is mainly calcium carbonate, is used in construction. Cement also has a calcium component: calcium oxide is used in its manufacture.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.