EMU Volume 13 – Chapter 11

Chapter 11: Minerals and human health
Catherine Skinner

Environmental Mineralogy is an area of investigation and research that applies to all the systems operating at the surface of the Earth: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere and the biosphere. Minerals are basic to all the dynamic processes in each of these sectors. This chapter will focus on biominerals, a subset of mineral materials that are essential to all Earth’s inhabitants as they have been since the first living species appeared over 3 billion years ago. Biominerals are those produced via biological mechanisms, a large suite of compounds, many familiar to mineralogists, but this chapter will concentrate on the biominerals found within humans. Not only are these natural, some are essential such as the mineral matter found in bones and teeth. Other biominerals found in humans are pathological and reflect disease states, like the ‘stones’ that occur in the kidneys of some individuals. The study of human biominerals offers a novel view of the ‘geo-environment’.

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