Body for sale: How much are your chemical components worth?


Are we made of money?

You always hear stories about students selling their bodies to finance their studies. But, how much could you make from the raw materials that makes up your body? This was an idea that came to me the other day and I decided I had to find out just how much we are worth in raw chemical elements!

To work this out I first needed to find out what the make-up of my body is. Unsurpringly, the internet already had this data assembled for me. The average human is made up of 54 different elements, ranging from carbon (the most prevalent) to radium (the least prevalent). Then find the cost for the pure element, this was done with a variety of sites (but mainly chemicool.com). All the following calculations and data are relevant for an adult of approximately 70Kg, the data offers no distinction between men and women. But, due to the natural differences in body tissue composition it is likely that there will be some variation. Here are the 15 most abundant elements in the body and their real world cost values:

Element Mass in body (kg) Value per kg ($) Total value ($)
Oxygen 43 3 129
Carbon 16 24 384
Hydrogen 7 100 700
Nitrogen 1.8 4 7.2
Calcium 1.0 200 200
Phosphorus 0.780 300 234
Potassium 0.140 1000 140
Sulphur 0.140 500 70
Sodium 0.100 250 25
Chlorine 0.095 1.5 0.14
Magnesium 0.019 37 0.7
Iron 0.0042 72 0.3

This comes up to the total of $1890.34. But, what about the remaining 39 elements? The body contains a remarkable range of elements from gold to uranium. However, with their quantities so low it only works out as only $95.41.

Giving the grand total cost of the human body as $1985.77.

According to current conversion rates is about £1224.72. What could you buy for this though? Well, you could get a lower end Macbook Pro, 2722 Mars bars or you and 7 friends could all chip in to buy the latest Fiat 500…I know which I would pick!

To check out all the calculations you can download my excel workings from here

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12 thoughts on “Body for sale: How much are your chemical components worth?

    • Ok cool, thats interesting. My data was on the assumption that you could completely isolate and purify the elements and not taking account any costs in that process. I would guess that this figure of $7 might be what is actually attainable from the human body. Changes in the prices of elements and inflation will likely have had some impact as well though.

      • … really… if you broke down the compounds like water (which is practically cheap) into commodities like oxygen and hydrogen whith their required storage mediums then yes the costs would probably be as you said… likewise for carbon as either graphite or diamond

      • … really… do recycling facilities exist ? I’d really like to defray the cost of my funeral…

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