Calcium chloride is generally considered safe for human consumption and for environmental control, but there is more to the story. With normal use, you will be perfectly safe. Yet, there are dangers in using Calcium Chloride in high concentrations in medical settings. Calcium chloride in pure form can also cause burns, so you need to practice safe handling when you come in contact with high concentrations of calcium chloride.
Calcium Chloride is Safe for Consumption
Calcium Chloride is used as a food additive to make foods taste saltier, keep color, and to keep some foods firm. You will find it in things like pickles where it helps with all three things, providing a yummy salty flavor while keeping those pickles a healthy green color, and retaining firmness in your cucumbers.
You will also find calcium chloride in some bottled waters in order to add hardness for more of a spring water flavor than a purified water flavor.
Of course, everything has its limits, and while normal consumption is fine, you should expect problems with mega-doses of calcium chloride. Just like you can have too much water, you can overdo the calcium chloride.
You also want to avoid straight calcium chloride. Pure calcium chloride can create burns because it reacts with moisture to create heat. Occasionally, when calcium chloride is given intravenously, it sometimes causes other problems as well. The lesson is to not “self-medicate” with calcium chloride since you normally would not experience harmful levels outside of mega-doses or direct exposure to pure calcium chloride.
Calcium Chloride is Safe for Environmental Control
Our expertise is in calcium chloride used for environmental control. It is used on pavement for de-icing and on dirt roads for dust control. Just like with consumption, when you use the right amount of calcium chloride, you are fine and calcium chloride is considered safe, but if you use too much calcium chloride, you can hurt the environment.
Salting pavement with calcium chloride requires less material than rock salt and it is less harmful to vegetation than rock salt. Unless you have very large concentrations of calcium chloride, your plants will be just fine. An added benefit of calcium chloride is that it is gentler on concrete than standard rock salt.
Calcium chloride also helps keep dust down on dirt roads and construction sites. Dust can pollute the air and make breathing more difficult. Calcium Chloride keeps the dust down and can be a real help in keeping the air clean in dry areas.
Calcium chloride is a common substance used to preserve our food, melt ice on the road and even dry concrete. While calcium chloride can be harmful if handled improperly, it is a generally safe substance. No need to worry about the trace amounts in the food you eat. Just be sure to wear gloves when tossing it on your driveway and you should have no issues.
What Is Calcium Chloride Used For?
A white, crystalline substance, calcium chloride serves an array of purposes from food preservation to highway construction.
As far as food goes, calcium chloride is regarded as a safe preservative, commonly used as an anti-browning agent for fruits and vegetables, according to the FDA. The post-harvest application of calcium chloride keeps produce fresh by reducing the vegetables’ weight loss, chilling injury, and loss of vitamin C and beta carotene, according to a 2016 article published in the Journal of Food Research. Calcium chloride is also used in products as a firming agent for foods like evaporated milk and cheese.
This substance is most commonly used to de-ice roads and highways in the form of road salt, according to the American Chemistry Council. Just like sodium chloride (table salt), calcium chloride lowers the melting temperature of ice and keeps our roads slip-free.
Calcium chloride is also often used as a concrete accelerator, according to the American Society of Concrete Contractors. The substance makes for an inexpensive and efficient way to speed up the rate at which concrete dries. However, there are certain restrictions in place that dictate the amount of calcium chloride permitted in concrete.
How to Handle Calcium Chloride Safely
Calcium chloride can be safe to use if handled properly. According to West Liberty University, be sure to wear protective clothing that covers the skin, especially the skin that comes in direct contact with the substance. If you’re working with calcium chloride for long periods of time, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area or take frequent breaks for fresh air.
When storing calcium chloride, keep it dry, concealed and away from zinc (since the two substances can react if mixed). If calcium chloride happens to spill, the IPCS recommends safely sweeping it into covered containers, moistening the salt if needed to more easily stow it.
What Is Calcium Chloride Used for in Food?
Calcium chloride in food is used as a firming agent, typically to help keep pickles and other canned fruits and vegetables crisp and crunchy. It’s generally recognized as safe by the FDA, but use food-grade calcium chloride for anything you plan to eat — and follow the instructions as written.
Calcium chloride in food is a firming agent, typically used to keep pickles crunchy and in canned fruits and veggies.
Calcium chloride is also used in some de-icing solutions to melt snow on roads, as an additive in some plastics and for drying concrete more quickly. The substance is found in a variety of household cleaners, detergents and cosmetics.
What is Calcium Chloride?
Calcium chloride is a type of salt that is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, at room temperature, calcium chloride is a solid that is white or off-white in color. The chemical formula for calcium chloride, which can be refined from limestone and natural brine, is CaCl₂.
The Food and Drug Administration lists calcium chloride as GRAS — generally recognized as safe. According to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, calcium chloride in food is a firming agent and can also be used to prevent browning. Firming agents are food additives used to help processed fruits and vegetables stay crisp, for example in jars of pickles.
You can purchase calcium chloride to use during home pickling. For example, Ball Pickle Crisp Granules are available in 5.5-ounce containers. According to the manufacturer, one container can be used to make 80 quarts of pickles, and using calcium chloride means you no longer need to pre-soak your pickles in pickling lime for a number of hours.
A study published in the journal Food Control in January 2015 found that a combination of calcium chloride and chitosan can help extend the shelf life of fresh-cut honeydew melon. Researchers concluded that melons treated with the combination lost less mass over time, had better color retention and remained firmer.
Calcium Chloride Uses
The substance has numerous applications outside the food world. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calcium chloride is found in a number of household products, including:
- Cement mix accelerators
- Moisture absorbers
- Laundry detergent
- Stain removers
- Fabric softener
- Dishwasher detergent
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Ice melt
- Pool cleaners
- Mineral supplements for aquariums and fish tanks
- Facial serums
Medical Uses for Calcium Chloride
Calcium chloride can also be used in medications, particularly to treat hypocalcemia, an electrolyte imbalance caused by low levels of calcium. Calcium chloride can be administered intravenously to quickly increase calcium in blood plasma.
The National Institutes of Health explains that calcium is necessary for muscle movements and communication between the brain and other parts of the body. It also helps release crucial hormones and enzymes. Calcium is generally stored in teeth and bones and helps keep those structures strong.
Your recommended daily calcium intake depends on your age and sex;
- 200 milligrams per day for infants up to 6 months old
- 260 milligrams per day for babies ages 7 to 12 months
- 700 milligrams per day for children ages 1 to 3
- 1,000 milligrams per day for children ages 4 to 8
- 1,300 milligrams per day for children ages 9 to 13
- 1,300 milligrams per day for teens ages 14 to 18
- 1,000 milligrams per day for adults ages 19 to 50
- 1,000 milligrams per day for men ages 51 to 70
- 1,200 milligrams per day for women ages 51 to 70
- 1,200 milligrams per day for adults ages 71 and over
- 1,300 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding teens* 1,000 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding adults
Most people get their daily calcium from foods rich in the mineral, like milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli and grains. If your calcium levels are low, your doctor may recommend a dietary supplement like calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.
Calcium Chloride for Neonatal Nutrition
For a study published in the Journal of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine in 2017, researchers reviewed 15 years of data on calcium chloride use in neonatal intensive care units. They compared the outcomes of very low birth-weight babies given intravenous calcium chloride as part of their IV nutrition solutions to very low birth-weight babies given calcium gluconate in glass vials.
They found no adverse effects associated with calcium chloride, concluding that it’s a safe alternative to calcium gluconate. The researchers wrote that calcium gluconate is linked to aluminum exposure, which is something physicians would like to minimize in vulnerable NICU patients. As such, they recommend that doctors prescribe calcium chloride instead of calcium gluconate.
Beth Israel Lahey Health explains that exposure to aluminum is typically not harmful, but exposure to high levels of it can contribute to health issues including muscle weakness, bone deformities, slow growth in babies and children, seizures, lung problems, anemia and nervous system complications.