Antimony – toxicity, side effects, diseases and environmental impacts

Thursday, November 30, 2017 by

Broken down to its essentials, antimony is derived from two Greek words, anti and monos, roughly translating into “a metal not found alone”. This is quite a contradiction as the metal is an element that can be found in the Earth’s crust, although it is exceedingly rare and difficult to mine. Perhaps this influenced scientists to believe that antimony could only be “made” by combining it with other, more readily-available metals. Today it is mostly sold in the form of sulfide stibnite.

Antimony is part of the metalloid group and is found in the periodic table under the number 51, stibium. It has the atomic symbol of Sb and is characterized to be a silvery, lustrous gray metal.

Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity. This particular trait has made it a popular addition to certain types of semiconductor devices such as diodes and infrared detectors. Antimony also finds its uses in batteries, low friction metals, small arms and tracer bullets, and cable sheathing. The metal is also used for glass-making, pottery and ceramics.

A French chemist, Nicolas Lémery, was the first scientist to study antimony and its compounds. His research was published in 1707.

List of known side effects

Pure antimony is normally alloyed with lead to increase its viability in the manufacturing industry. The dust that results from this relationship can cause breathing problems among workers. Sadly, antimony can also readily contaminate drinking water and food, causing gastrointestinal distress that can range from mild to severe, depending on exposure.

Prolonged exposure to antimony dust can damage the eyes, skins, and lungs. Eventually this can lead to more severe complications such as lung disease, heart problems, diarrhea, severe vomiting, and stomach ulcers.

Previously, antimony was used as medicine for parasitic infections, but its use was discontinued after health groups noted people being mostly allergic to the metal.

It is unclear whether antimony is carcinogenic or if it can cause reproductive failure.

Biologists have noted that antimony readily seeps into the soil and into waters, causing health effects among birds and fish exposed to the metal. Animals who eat or are in direct contact with antimony have a higher chance of dying, researchers have noted.

Body systems affected by antimony

Antimony is a known irritant. The systems affected by the metal are any that are exposed to it. Thus, lungs are damaged if the metal is inhaled and skin is corroded if antimony is applied to it.

Workers who handle the metal are asked to wear protective gear at all times.

Items that can contain antimony

Antimony is normally found in batteries and semiconductor devices. The metal can also be found in some pottery items, as well as older pieces that contain glass and ceramics.

How to avoid antimony

It is highly unlikely that you will ever see pure antimony. The only people at risk of the negative health effects of the metal are those working with the material itself. Health groups have designed strict guidelines on how to handle antimony.

Where to learn more

Summary

Antimony is a rare element part of the metalloid group in the periodic table. It roughly makes up about 0.00002 percent of the Earth’s crust. The metal is usually alloyed with other alloys to increase its viability in the manufacturing industry where it is used to help make certain semiconductor devices. It can cause lung damage if inhaled over a long period of time.

Sources include:

ChemSpider.com

LiveScience.com

PubChem.NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov

LennTech.com



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