Magnesium is the twelfth element on the periodic table. It is located in the second
group called the alkaline earth metals. Natural magnesium contains three different isotopes,
and there are twelve others that are recognized. Seawater is a rich source of magnesium in
the form of salt. Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the earth’s crust.
Magnesium readily ignites upon heating in air and burns with a dazzling white flame. To
extinguish the flame water should not be used. Alkaline earth metal salts in general, are less
soluble in water than the corresponding alkali metal salts. Some are even so insoluble that
they resist weathering and leaching action in rainwater.
Alkaline earth metals are extracted
from the mineral ores like they have been for many decades. This second group of metals is
also less reactive than the alkali metals. They do not need to have a specific storage
procedure like that of the corresponding elements. These alkaline metals react with acids,
and in certain temperatures of water. They are also harder than their alkali friends. In
general, they have a gray-white luster that tarnishes quickly in the air to form a tough, thin
oxide coating. The coating protects the metal, particularly magnesium, from further
oxidation. This allows alloys of these metals to be used as low-density structural materials.
Magnesium is one of the two most important alkaline earth metals. It is found in
seawater. Today, though it is chiefly produced by electrolysis of fused magnesium chloride.
It has many uses. Magnesium is an important material that is a chief component in a
number of high-tensile-strength, low-density alloys. These properties allow the alloy to be
very valuable in air and spacecraft construction. Also, the alloyed metal is used to make a
large variety of other products, such as, artificial limbs, vacuum cleaners, optical
instruments, recreational skis, wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, and outdoor furniture.
Magnesium is also found in asbestos. Asbestos was used in insulating materials up until it
was found to cause cancer and other types of lung diseases. The unalloyed metal of
magnesium is used in photographic flashlight powders, incendiary bombs, and signal flares.
This special element also has many important roles in the body. The most vital need for it is
on the cellular level. It is as important as calcium, and is found in bones, blood and soft
tissues. Magnesium is essential for strong healthy bones and teeth. In the environment,
magnesium reduces carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitric acid, and
nitrous oxide. All of which are relatively harmful to the body or the environment.
First discussing the alloyed metal, one can see its many uses on an everyday basis.
Look in the sky, do you see any type of aircraft? It was made from the alloyed metal of
magnesium. There are advantages to using magnesium for die castings. It is better than
most metals in many circumstances. Molten magnesium is poured into a cast then solidifies
into its mold..
It can make reasonably intricate parts made cheaper than machine parts
because it occurs abundantly in nature, in the form of a light malleable, ductile metal.
In the body, magnesium is essential for many activities in the body including calcium
utilization, cardiac function, energy production, many enzyme reactions, relaxation of
muscles and restful sleep. In general, our bodies have been greatly depleted of magnesium
for decades, and the foods we eat do not contain, as they did in the past, as much
magnesium as may be needed. Fatty foods and alcohol actually inhibit magnesium
absorption, and nearly forty percent of the magnesium in the foods we eat is lost during
cooking. Consequently, many people have a greater need for magnesium supplements than
for any other nutrient. In every muscle , calcium and magnesium have a reciprocal
relationship. Calcium stimulates the muscles to contract while magnesium allows them to
relax. When our bodies are deficient in calcium, we can borrow from the vast reserves in
our bones. But, when the body gets low in magnesium, we must obtain it from our muscles.
As magnesium disappears from the muscles, calcium rushes in and the muscles tend to
become tense or cramp. Many researches now believe that magnesium deficiency is also
related to constriction and hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. They have
found that heart attack victims have low levels of magnesium in their blood and heart
muscles. Magnesium is necessary for the metabolism of calcium, sodium, phosphorous, and
potassium. Magnesium assists with the production of cellar energy, regulation of calcium,
manufacturing of protein and normal muscle contractions. Some people should take
magnesium supplements on a daily basis. They can be especially beneficial during times of
extreme stress or illness. Magnesium is also a treatment for insomnia, menstrual problems,
PMS, and muscle cramps. It can be taken regularly, either in a pill form or an injection, to
help prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. The human adult daily intake
requirement for magnesium is about three grams. Check with your doctor to see what is
right for you.
Asbestos is magnesium based fiber that was commonly used in a variety of insulating
materials and as a fire-retardant. Most product have been banned by the U.S. government,
and manufacturers have limited the use of this product. Asbestos is a microscopic fiber that
is found in either a bent or pin shape that is easily inhaled if broken apart. Today, it is found
most commonly in older homes, in pipes, furnace insulation materials, shingles, millboard,
textured paints, and floor tiles. When remodeling, improper attempts to remove these
materials can release the fibers into the air, increasing the asbestos levels and endangering
the people living in the home. Asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma(a cancer of
the chest and the abdominal linings), and asbestosis (irrecoverable lung scarring that is fatal).
Symptoms of these diseases do not show up until many years after exposure began. Most
people with asbestos-related diseases were exposed to elevated concentrations on the job;
some developed diseases from exposure to clothing or equipment brought home from job
Smokers are at higher risk of developing asbestos-induced lung cancer.
Magnesium is also an important element in plant life. Chlorophyll is loosely based
upon magnesium. The green color of vegetables and plants is due to chlorophyll, which is a
molecule of magnesium. Magnesium is also found in a variety of other foods. Many soy
products such as tofu or soy flour also contain magnesium, as do many seeds and legumes.
Most foods that are originally found beneath the soil are a reliable source of magnesium.
Almonds, Brazilian nuts, pecans, and cashews contain some of the highest amounts of the
element from edible nuts. Many types of fish contain the element too, specifically salmon.
Also fruits such as dried apricots or avocados hold the element well. Eating these foods
proves to be beneficial to the body in the ways already stated and many more in the long
As you can see, magnesium is a special element that is extremely useful in our lives.
We come across every day, completely unaware that it is there or even what it is. Most
elements are like that though, never thanked or recognized for the important roles they play
in our world today. Life without elements wouldn’t be life at all. Without elements, such as
magnesium, we would find ourselves without many of the conveniences and advancements
in civilization that are currently available to us. Society, as a whole, (not just chemistry
students) should learn more about these elements and appreciate all that they have given
them for without them, life wouldn’t be the same. With new advances in space exploration
and more experimental research, we are sure to find many more elements which will make
the life to come almost an effortless exsistance.