Public Lab is launching a new 🎈 Mini Balloon & Kite Kit as part of Kickstarter Gold -- take a look!

  • 2

Question:What are the health effects related to fine particles of calcium carbonate?

stevie is asking a question about air-quality: Subscribe to answer questions on this topic

stevie asked on May 10, 2017 20:11
176 | 6 answers | shortlink

What I want to do or know:

I'm looking for some more information or documentation about calcium carbonate as it relates to human health, specifically: - the heart and - other health risks of fine calcium particles.

health particles calcium-carbonate calcium ultrafine

question:air-quality question:pm question:general question:calcium question:health-effects question:health question:ultrafine


Log in to comment

6 Answers

Cheryl Holzmeyer wrote in to my email to the lists:

I don't know if this is too general, but in case it's relevant (calcium carbonate is listed in table 2.1 on pg. 8):

Wig Zamore wrote in today as well, to add:

A quick check of PubMed yields two abstracts that may be of interest and are pasted in below. Basically, any very heavy inhaltion of particles is likely to be damaging but calcium carbonate and its trace elements are generally less toxic than many other forms of particulates, especially those with transition metals or organic toxins such as PAhs or substituted PAHs. - Cheers, Wig

Wig is well known around Somerville, where I live (and greater Boston!), but for some context, see this page:

He enclosed in his email:

1. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2017 Feb;175(2):466-474. doi: 10.1007/s12011-016-0769-1. Epub 2016 Jun 10.

Trace Elemental Characterization of Chalk Dust and Their Associated Health Risk Assessment.

Maruthi YA(1), Ramprasad S(2), Lakshmana Das N(3).

Author information: (1)Department of Environmental Studies, GITAM Institute of Science, GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, AP, India. (2)Department of Environmental Studies, GITAM Institute of Science, GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, AP, India. (3)Department of Physics, GITAM Institute of Science, GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, AP, India.

It is evident that chalk produces dust on use, i.e., particulate matter, which will alter the air quality of classrooms and can cause health hazards in teachers. The possible causes for health effects of chalk dust on teachers are still unclear. Hence, the aim of this study is to estimate the concentration of trace elements (Al, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Si, Pb) in chalk dust collected from classrooms by using ICP-MS. Both suspended and settled chalk dust was collected from selected classrooms. Suspended chalk dust was collected with PM2.5 filter paper using fine dust sampler, and settled chalk dust was collected by placing petriplates at a distance of 3 m from the board for a duration period of 30 min. Scanning electron microscopy images of chalk dust were taken up. Potential health risk analysis was also assessed. Results showed that Al, Fe, and Mn are in higher concentration (>1000 ?g kg(-1)) in both settled and suspended chalk dust. Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, and Ni were beyond the minimal risk levels in both settled and suspended chalk dust. There are no minimal risk levels for the elements Al, Si, and Pb. The concentration of trace elements in suspended chalk dust was higher than that in settled chalk dust. The SEM images of PM2.5 filter papers (suspended chalk dust) showed that all pores of the sampled filter papers are clogged with chalk dust. The few SEM images of the settled chalk dust showed fibrous shape which is associated with good-quality chalk whereas others showed circular and more aggregated nature of chalk dust from low-quality chalk from which the dust production will be very high. As observed from the result that the trace elements concentration was high in the suspended chalk dust, the fact can be correlated with the SEM images which have shown high density of absorbed chalk dust. With reference to human health risk, dermal exposure was the main route of exposure followed by inhalation and ingestion. Al (aluminum), Fe (iron), Si (silicon), and Mn (manganese) are the major contributors for the non-carcinogenic effects. For all the elements, the carcinogenic effect calculated (LADD) is within the global acceptable limit (10(-6)-10(-4)).

DOI: 10.1007/s12011-016-0769-1 PMID: 27283836 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

2. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 Sep;22(9):1548-58. doi: 10.1021/tx900046x.

Investigation of the cytotoxic and proinflammatory effects of cement dusts in rat alveolar macrophages.

van Berlo D(1), Haberzettl P, Gerloff K, Li H, Scherbart AM, Albrecht C, Schins RP.

Author information: (1)IUF-Institut für Umweltmedizinische Forschung, Auf'm Hennekamp 50, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.

Exposure to cement dust, a specifically alkaline and irritant dust, is one of the most common occupational dust exposures worldwide. Although several adverse respiratory health effects have been associated with cement dust exposure, the evidence is not conclusive. In the current study, cytotoxic and pro-inflammatory effects as well as oxidative stress elicited by a number of cement dusts, including a limestone and cement clinker sample, were tested using the NR8383 rat alveolar macrophage cell line and primary rat alveolar macrophages. DQ12 quartz and TiO(2) were included as positive and negative controls, respectively. Cytotoxicity was determined by the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazoliumbromide assay and the lactate dehydrogenase assay, oxidative stress was determined by measurement of the depletion of total cellular glutathione, and electron spin resonance was applied to determine reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. The release of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), and macrophage inflammatory protein-2 (MIP-2) was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. None of the dust samples were found to cause toxicity to the macrophages or notable glutathione depletion when compared to DQ12. The cement samples also failed to activate macrophages for the generation of ROS and the production of inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta and MIP-2. In contrast, however, most of the cement dusts were found to activate macrophage TNFalpha production, and this was significantly associated with their content of CaO. Further research is needed to determine the relevance of these in vitro observations for occupational cement dust exposure settings.

DOI: 10.1021/tx900046x PMID: 19697923 [Indexed for MEDLINE]


As noted above, chalk, e.g. chalk dust in classrooms, and cement manufacture, are major sources of calcium carbonate pollution. Cement manufacturing is a dirty process, producing lots of air and water pollution, but calcium carbonate is a dangerous fraction, as far as I know, only when it's a dust < 10 microns. Calcium carbonate is the main ingredient in a lot of antacids and some calcium supplements.

In addition, one of the biggest producers of calcium carbonate dust is lime kilns. I searched "lime kilns" and "pollution" and got some links that look helpful. Lime kilns: CaCO3 -- heat --> CaO + CO2.... so they're major carbon dioxide emitters, besides emitting assorted unpleasant particulates in addition to the predominant CaCO3 dust- see article below: 2a is useful; a table in the article notes the dust from lime kilns is 97.4% calcium carbonate.

Of course, there's pm pollution along the whole production chain, from the limestone/dolomite quarries, to the hauling, production, and hauling again.

In case you're curious, once calcium carbonate is cooked into lime, according to the National Lime Association, "The largest single use of lime remains steel manufacturing, where it is used to remove impurities. In construction, the dominant use of lime is in soil stabilization for roads, earthen dams, airfields, and building foundations. Lime can be combined with certain additives to produce other metals and is also a key ingredient in mortar and plaster in lime slurry form." Source:

Thank you all! I heard back form the community member (who was following along reading this), and they thank everyone for this information. The studies were very helpful because they described the trace elements co-present with the calcium carbonate from the time it was mined. These heavy metals are the same as what's being found in the "dust" that is landing on this community, which hadn't otherwise been explainable by the industrial activity alone that was causing the bulk of the particulate pollution.

Another answer via @Zengirl2 !:

I just wanted to add a study I found for Sri Lanka looking at health issues from Lime dust emission. The study looked at different distances from the plant, as well as perceptions. Here is a key quote:

"Results revealed that people above 60 years and children below 15 years were more affected with respiratory diseases mainly with asthma, bronchitis and tuberculosis."

@RonHuber chimed in on the lists:

We hypothesized the calcium carbonate dust emanating from the Cement Kiln Dust waste piles of a cement kiln near Penobscot Bay had a local mitigating effect on surface water acidity. We got them to cover their dust mounds in 2005; there seem to be reduced abundance of coralline algae in nearby Rockland harbor's and Rockport Harbor's rocky intertidal and shallow subtidal for the last decade

Connection? Maybe. It would be insightful if calciferous species within the windshadow or dust dispersal zone of cement kilns near other shores were compared - Ocean acidification is known to affect skeleton formation of coralline algae.

Sign up or Login to post an answer to this question.