The toxic (heavy metal) element antimony, is a semi-metallic mineral that is a commonly used alloyed with lead in lead-acid batteries and as a fire retardant. Antimony is also used as a stabiliser and catalyst for the production of polyethylene terephthalate, commonly called PET, PETE, PETP or PET-P and is often used in the food and beverage industry. Research studies have shown that antimony leaches from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles into liquids. Antimony is also found in eye liner and tobacco. While levels observed for bottled water were below drinking water guidelines for Canada and Europe, fruit juice concentrates (for which no guidelines are established) produced in the UK were found to contain up to 44.7 µg/L of antimony, well above the EU limits for tap water of 5µg/L.
Antimony is a semi metallic element that can exist in two forms: the metallic form is bright, silvery, hard and brittle; the non metallic form is a grey powder. Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, is stable in dry air and it expands on cooling. (1) It is generally not used alone; it can be mixed with other metals to form alloys or compounds. (2) The most common natural form of antimony found is the ore known as stibnite, which has the chemical formula Sb2S3. Stibnite is often found in combination with gold or silver (5)
Sources – Environment
Antimony occurs naturally in the environment, it is found in low-level concentrations in water, soil and air. (6) Within the earth’s crust, its average natural abundance is between 0.2 and 0.5 parts per million. (5) It also enters the environment through mining and industry.
Antimony can be found in low-level concentrations in drinking water and foods. The average estimated dietary exposure of Antimony according to Food Standards Australia is between 0.01 and 0.25 ug/kg bw/ day. The FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives has not made any evaluations of antimony and no tolerable limit has been set. An oral reference dose for antimony of 0.4 ug/kg bw/day has been adopted by Food Standards Australia (FSANZ) for the purpose of dietary modelling. (6) Antimony is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It can be detected on the surface of the plastic after manufacture, and has the ability to migrate out into food and drink over time. (14)
Absorption and Excretion
Antimony can be absorbed by inhalation or ingestion. Occupational exposure can occur from inhaling antimony dusts. Breathing in antimony bound to hydrogen is the common cause of adverse health effects. (1) Inhaled antimony is mainly absorbed from the lungs, distributed to various organs and excreted in urine, sweat and faeces. (7, 12)
Functions and Applications
Antimony has no biological role or function and does not appear to be essential element for life. In small doses it is said to stimulate metabolism. (13) The main use of antimony as a metal is as an additive for alloys and in lead-acid batteries. Antimony is frequently alloyed with lead to improve its hardness and durability, the most common application being batteries. (4, 5, 2) The main use of antimony and its compounds is in flame retardants and brake linings, these include antimony pentoxide, sodium antimonite and antimony trioxide. Antimony oxide is added to textiles, plastics, rubber, adhesives, pigments and paper as a fire retardant. Antimony and its compounds are also used in medicine, plastics, solder, sheet and pipe metals, motor bearings, castings, semiconductors, pewter, military applications and to colour artificial gems. (4, 5, 2) Antimony compounds have been used as medicines, mainly in the treatment of two parasitic diseases: leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis. (10)
Toxicity and Excess
Antimony exposure occurs through either occupational exposure of during antimony therapy. Occupational exposure can occur mainly in workers in industries that produce antimony and antimony trioxide, metal mining, smelting and refining, coal-fired power plants, refuse incineration and indoor firing ranges. Inhaling antimony compounds has been seen to cause pneumoconiosis, as well as chronic bronchitis, chronic emphysema, pleural effusions and respiratory irritation. Other symptoms of antimony exposure include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, GIT ulcers, ocular conjunctivitis, cardiovascular disease and “antimony spots” (pustules or eruptions on trunk/limbs near sweat glands). (10)
Removal of antimony and other heavy metals from the body can be achieved using treatments offered at True Medicine.
References available on request