Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks as the minerals calcite and aragonite (most notably as limestone, which is a type of sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcite) and is the main component of pearls and the shells of marine organisms, snails, and eggs. Calcium carbonate is the active ingredient in agricultural lime and is created when calcium ions in hard water react with carbonate ions to create limescale. It is medicinally used as a calcium supplement or as an antacid, but excessive consumption can be hazardous and cause poor digestion.
The vast majority of calcium carbonate used in industry is extracted by mining or quarrying. Pure calcium carbonate (such as for food or pharmaceutical use), can be produced from a pure quarried source (usually marble).
Calcite, aragonite and vaterite are pure calcium carbonate minerals. Industrially important source rocks which are predominantly calcium carbonate include limestone, chalk, marble and travertine.
Beyond Earth, strong evidence suggests the presence of calcium carbonate on Mars. Signs of calcium carbonate have been detected at more than one location (notably at Gusev and Huygens craters). This provides some evidence for the past presence of liquid water.
In warm, clear tropical waters corals are more abundant than towards the poles where the waters are cold. Calcium carbonate contributors, including plankton (such as coccoliths and planktic foraminifera), coralline algae, sponges, brachiopods, echinoderms, bryozoa and mollusks, are typically found in shallow water environments where sunlight and filterable food are more abundant. Cold-water carbonates do exist at higher latitudes but have a very slow growth rate. The calcification processes are changed by ocean acidification.
The main use of calcium carbonate is in the construction industry, either as a building material, or limestone aggregate for road building, as an ingredient of cement, or as the starting material for the preparation of builders' lime by burning in a kiln. However, because of weathering mainly caused by acid rain, calcium carbonate (in limestone form) is no longer used for building purposes on its own, but only as a raw primary substance for building materials.
Fine ground calcium carbonate (GCC) is an essential ingredient in the microporous film used in diapers and some building films, as the pores are nucleated around the calcium carbonate particles during the manufacture of the film by biaxial stretching. GCC and PCC are used as a filler in paper because they are cheaper than wood fiber. In terms of market volume, GCC are the most important types of fillers currently used. Printing and writing paper can contain 10–20% calcium carbonate. In North America, calcium carbonate has begun to replace kaolin in the production of glossy paper. Europe has been practicing this as alkaline papermaking or acid-free papermaking for some decades. PCC used for paper filling and paper coatings is precipitated and prepared in a variety of shapes and sizes having characteristic narrow particle size distributions and equivalent spherical diameters of 0.4 to 3 micrometers.
Calcium carbonate is used therapeutically as phosphate binder in patients on maintenance haemodialysis. It is the most common form of phosphate binder prescribed, particularly in non-dialysis chronic kidney disease. Calcium carbonate is the most commonly used phosphate binder, but clinicians are increasingly prescribing the more expensive, non-calcium-based phosphate binders, particularly sevelamer.