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Antimony

Sb, Antymon

SPRI Emission Reporting Threshold
1.00 Kg/yr Pollutant Emissions to Air
Disclaimer
This sheet is a generic summary, designed to give the reader a basic level of background information about the substance in question. Great care has been taken to represent as effectively and correctly as possible the broad range of (not necessarily consistent) information which is available from a variety of sources. The reader must accept therefore that this sheet has no legal status and cannot be relied upon in any legal proceedings. SEPA disclaims any responsibility or liability whatsoever for errors and omissions in this sheet.
What is it?
Pure antimony is a white metal which breaks or snaps easily. It is stable under normal conditions, is not easily corroded by air or water and does not conduct electricity or heat well. Antimony has properties typical of both metals and non-metals and is therefore referred to as a "metalloid". Antimony is usually found in combination with other substances - it combines with a variety of other elements to form many useful chemicals.
What is it used for?
Antimony is mainly used to form alloys (mixtures of metals), which are used for castings, bearings, metal sheeting and piping, pewter, solder and lead storage batteries. Antimony oxide is added to plastics and textiles to reduce flammability. It is also used as an enamel for plastics, metals and glass and is added to paints and ceramics.
Where does it come from?
Man-made releases of Antimony occur to air and water from waste incinerators, metal processing works, mines and industrial facilities burning coal. In urban areas, the main sources are fumes from the burning of oil fuels (especially vehicle exhaust gases) and dusts from industry. Antimony is also released naturally from the earth's crust and so is found (usually at relatively low concentrations) in soils, natural water bodies and sediments.
How might it affect the environment?
The majority of Antimony released ends up in soils. Exposure to high levels of Antimony (which may occur in the immediate vicinity of sources of release) may harm wildlife. If Antimony enters water bodies, it can be toxic to aquatic life. It is not considered likely that Antimony pollution has any effects on the global environment.
How might exposure to it affect human health?
Antimony can enter the body by inhalation of air containing antimony, by ingestion of food or water containing antimony, or by dermal contact with antimony. Inhalation of air containing eye and lung irritation, heart and lung damage, stomach pains, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach ulcers. Ingestion of large doses of antimony may cause vomiting, but very little further information is known on the effects of ingesting antimony. Dermal contact with antimony can cause skin irritation if contact is prolonged. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has not classified antimony in terms of its carcinogenicity to humans. However, exposure to antimony at normal background levels is unlikely to have any adverse effect on human health.
What steps are being taken to limit the potential impacts?
Releases of Antimony are controlled through the UK Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) Regulations. European Directives regulating levels of Antimony include that concerned with combating air pollution from industrial plants (84/360/EEC) and that concerned with hazardous waste (91/689/EEC). At an international level, Antimony is included in the Basel Convention concerning the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes.