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EDTA (ethylenediamine tetraacetate) is a hexadentate ligand. The two nitrogen atoms with their lone pairs of electrons and the four carboxy groups each with an oxygen atom (which carries the negative charge) can attach to a central ion. Since EDTA is four times negatively charged in this case, a complex with a twice positively charged central ion has an overall charge of -2.
EDTA is used as a complexing agent in different areas of chemistry, biochemistry and medicine:
- In analysis, EDTA solutions are used for the titrimetric determination of heavy metal concentrations as well as for the determination of water hardness.
- Blood clotting is calcium-dependent. By complexing the -Ions by means of EDTA or citrate, the coagulation of blood preparations can be prevented.
- In the event of poisoning with certain heavy metals (especially lead and cadmium), EDTA can be given. The heavy metal ions are complexed and can be excreted with the urine.
- In certain (rare) cases it is possible to dissolve calcium-rich kidney stones by administering EDTA.
Since EDTA forms very stable complexes, especially with calcium ions, the organism is only allowed to use "laden" EDTA (usually comes used), otherwise massive disruption of the calcium balance would occur.