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The periodic table of the elements with the most common elements within living cells highlighted.
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L.Gardiner/Windows to the Universe

The Elements of Life

Elements make up everything around us including the trees of a forest, your pets, and even YOU!

All living things are made up of small compartments called cells and the cells of every creature are made of elements.

The most common elements in a cell are hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), carbon (C), and nitrogen (N). Cells also contain other elements such as phosphorus (P) and sulphur (S).

Plants and animals also need other elements to survive and grow!

Elements that are important for animals (including people) are:
calcium (Ca), which is important for bones and muscles,
chlorine (Cl) for digesting food,
fluorine (F) for tooth enamel,
iron (Fe) to help get oxygen all around the body.


Last modified July 7, 2004 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Fall 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on rocks and minerals, including articles on minerals and mining, the use of minerals in society, and rare earth minerals, and includes 3 posters!

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