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Antimony is a silvery-white toxic metal that is found in low concentrations in soil, food, drinking water, and air. However, higher concentrations may occur in sewage sludge, coal waste, or in soil near hazardous waste sites or antimony-processing sites.[1][2] In soil, antimony attaches to particles that contain iron, manganese, or aluminum. [3] Antimony's symbol on the Periodic Table is Sb and its atomic number is 51. One common form, antimony sulfide, is known as stibnite. The EPA prohibits levels of antimony in drinking water above 0.006 parts per million (0.006 ppm)[4]. In the Targeted National Sewage Sludge Survey, a 2009 test of 84 samples of sewage sludge from around the U.S., the EPA found antimony in 72 samples (86%) in concentrations ranging from 0.45 to 26.6 parts per million.[5]


Today, antimony is most widely used as antimony trioxide as a flame retardant for plastics, textiles, rubber, adhesives, pigments, and paper.[6][7] It is also used in batteries, small arms ammunition, ceramics, and glass. Another form, antimony potassium tartrate, is a highly toxic insecticide.[8]


According to the U.S. EPA, "Some people who drink water containing antimony well in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience increases in blood cholesterol and decreases in blood sugar."[9] Antimony is also categorized by the U.S. EPA as a Hazardous Air Pollutant.[10]

Acute exposure by inhalation in humans can effect the skin and eyes. According to the U.S. EPA: "Skin effects consist of a condition known as antimony spots, which is a rash consisting of pustules around sweat and sebaceous glands, while effects on the eye include ocular conjunctivitis. Oral exposure to antimony in humans has resulted in gastrointestinal effects."

Chronic exposure to humans can result in:[11]

  • Respiratory effects that include antimony pneumoconiosis (inflammation of the lungs due to irritation caused by the inhalation of dust), alterations in pulmonary function, chronic bronchitis, chronic emphysema, inactive tuberculosis, pleural adhesions, and irritation.
  • Cardiovascular effects (increased blood pressure, altered EKG readings and heart muscle damage)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders.

Additionally, according to the U.S. EPA,[12] "An increased incidence of spontaneous abortions, as compared with a control group, was reported in women working at an antimony plant. Disturbances in the menstrual cycle were reported in women exposed to various antimony compounds in a metallurgical plant. However, the study that reported these findings was unclear about concurrent exposure to other chemicals, nor did it provide the characteristics of the controls used."

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