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Chemical element, one of the alkaline earth metals, chemical symbol Ca, atomic number 20. The most abundant metallic element in the human body, it is an essential part of bones and teeth and has many physiological functions (seecalcium deficiency; tooth). It is the fifth most abundant element in Earth's crust but does not occur naturally in the free state. In its compounds calcium has valence 2. It occurs in limestone, chalk, marble, dolomite, eggshells, pearls, coral, and many marine shells as calcium carbonate, or calcite; in apatite as calcium phosphate; in gypsum as calcium sulfate; and in many other minerals. It is used as an alloying agent and in other metallurgical applications; its alloy with lead is used in cable sheathing and grids for batteries. Calcite is used as a lime source, a filler, a neutralizer, and an extender; in pure form it is used in baking powder and as an antacid and calcium supplement. Calcium oxide (lime) and its product after water addition, calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), are important industrially. Other significant compounds are calcium chloride (a drying agent), calcium hypochlorite (a bleach), calcium sulfate (gypsum and plaster of paris), and calcium phosphate (a plant food and stabilizer for plastics).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on calcium, visit Britannica.com.