January 20 2015 - In This Issue:
Dear Customer


Below is a new article on the Heavy Metal Antimony. Over the next 20 weeks or so we will be bringing you a new article each week on the rest of the heavy metals - there are about 24 of them now being labelled as such. You can see details of them here over the next couple of weeks if you do not wish to wait for the weekly articles:


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Antimony (Sb) as an Occupational Hazard

By Clifford Woods

The Name: Antimony (Sb) is a chemical element with a symbol of "Sb". The name of this element came from the Greek word anti and monos which means "not alone" when combined. The name means "not alone" because this element can't occur in nature by itself. It is usually mixed with heavy metals such as sulfur, copper, lead, and silver. The chemical symbol "Sb" is short for the element's ancient name, Stibium.  Based on the dictionary, the element's name is pronounced as "an-tuh-moh-nee". 


How was it discovered? Nicolas Lemery, a French chemist, was able to distribute basic knowledge about Antimony (Sb). He was the first one to do scientific studies about the element, detailed reports of which were published in his book in 1707.  However, the element was said to be discovered during 3000 BC. Before Lemery, Pliny and Abu Masa Jabir Ibn Hayyan were able to discover the element. Pliny called it Stibium while Hayyan derived its name from Greek words "anti" and "monos".


Compounds of this element have been used even during the early time. In fact, Stibnite, a mineral of Antimony (Sb), was used as black eyeliner of the Egyptians way back a thousand years ago. The early description of this element is from Pliny. He said that stibnite will turn into lead if heated strongly. After the thorough studies, it is now known that a stibnite which is heated strongly will turn into this element.


How can it be identified? 

  1. Its appearance can be described as silvery white and is usually associated with the appearance of sulfur.

  2. It is hard and brittle.

  3. It is a semi-metal element which has an atomic number of 51.
  4. It belongs on the Group 15 named as Pnictogen or the nitrogen family. This group also contains nitrogen, phosphorus, arsenic, and bismuth.
  5. It is solid in room temperature and it has high density which is 6.685 grams per cubic centimeter.
  6. It is a moderate conductor of heat and a poor conductor of electricity.
  7. It's atomic weight, boiling point, and melting point are 121.760, 1860K, and 903.78K, respectively.

What are its uses? 


 It is popularly used by industries to make semiconductor devices like diodes and infrared detectors.
  1. It is popularly used by industries to make semiconductor devices like diodes and infrared detectors.

  2. It is used to improve the durability of other metals. Doing so improves a metal's hardness and strength. 

  3. It is mixed or alloyed with lead then used in batteries

  4. Upon mixing with other metals, it can be used as type metal, cable sheathing, and bullets. 

  5. The compounds of this element are used in the production of flame-retardant material, enamels, paints, pottery and glass.

Toxicity: This element is abundant in the environment but only at low levels. However, since many electricity companies use it to make lead alloys, the concentration is increased from less than 1 nanogram per cubic meter to greater than 1000 nanogram per cubic meter. It can also be found in soil, meats, vegetables, and sea foods but only is small amounts.

However, based on studies, the concentration of this element is expected to be higher in the soil found near sites processing it. People who work in processing sites are the most exposed compared to anyone since the dust may contain it or accidents can happen wherein skin contact can occur. Therefore, the existing problem about this element is it being an occupational hazard.

What happens if you inhale it? This element contains an oxide that cannot be easily dissolved by water. It is usually present in the aerosols used in the industries. When it is sprayed, a worker may inhale the oxide and its particles will remain in the lungs.


Effects When Inhaled Are: 

  1. In humans, it has an acute effect on the skin and eyes. The victim will get rashes and may have ocular conjunctivitis.

  2. In animals, it has acute effects on the lungs, liver, and heart.

  3. It can cause respiratory effects to both human and animal. The affected human may have pneumoconiosis, respiratory pain chronic bronchitis, inactive tuberculosis, pleural adhesions, chronic emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.

  4. There is no certain cardiovascular disease that comes from the inhalation of this element. However, studies say that workers exposed or those who inhaled this element or its compounds have hypertension and irregular heart rhythm.

  5. There are components that cause the myocardium (muscular tissues of the heart) of some animal species to have severe alterations.

  6. Inhalation of this element also has acute effects on the gastrointestinal tract. It can result to diarrhea, vomiting, ulcers and abdominal pain. However, researchers suspect that exposure to this element is not the only cause of these diseases.  Exposure to hydrogen chloride and sodium hydroxide can also cause the same conditions.

  7. Exposure to the trioxide, pentasulfide, and metallic compounds of this element may cause women to have disturbed menstruations and also, abortions.

  8. It does not cause cancer to humans but in animals like rats, lung tumours can happen upon inhalation of its trisulfide and trioxide compounds.

  9. It can also affect the genes of the human. Research says that it can possibly break chromosomes in the human leukocytes. However, there isn't enough investigation about this because of the lack of in vivo studies. 

What if the person is orally exposed to it?

This element has an emetic (vomiting) effect. In fact, concentration of as low as 0.529 mg/kg can result to vomiting. Therefore, if it is consumed, the person can experience gastrointestinal diseases. The recovery time depends on the levels consumed. It may take 3 hours up to seven days of recovery. However, toxicity by oral exposure was not usually observed because it has low levels on the foods that human eat.


What should be the concentration limit of this element?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that the lakes and streams should only have a 145 ppb (parts per billion) concentration of this element. In this way, the fishes and the sea foods will not be contaminated too.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also set limits as to an allowable concentration of this element in the workroom air in an 8-hour work shift.


[The information contained in this article is believed to be reliable. I have taken every precaution to verify its accuracy; I am not a medical professional and make no warranties, representations or guarantees of any kind as to its accuracy. Medical knowledge is in a constant state of change, and what I have written here may be out of date by the time you read it. The information that I have provided here is for informational purposes only and not for use in diagnosing any condition that you may or may not have. Always consult with you doctor before treating yourself.]


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