October 24, 2019

Toxicological Profile for Antimony Describes Adverse Health Effects

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has published a final toxicological profile for antimony, a silvery-white metal found in the earth's crust. It can be mixed into alloys and used in lead storage batteries, solder, and sheet and pipe metal; added to textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire; or used in paints, ceramics, and fireworks. Antimony can be released to the environment from natural sources and from industries that process or release it, including smelters, coal-fired plants, and refuse incinerators. According to ATSDR, workers in these industries may be exposed to higher levels of antimony in the workplace. Exposure can also occur from skin contact with soil at hazardous waste sites. OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for antimony is 0.5 mg/m³ as an 8-hour time-weighted average for a 40-hour workweek. ACGIH and NIOSH currently recommend the same exposure limit.

ATSDR warns that exposure to high levels of antimony can cause adverse health effects such as eye and lung irritation, heart and lung problems, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers. Animals that breathed very high levels of antimony during short-term studies died. In long-term studies, animals that breathed low levels of antimony experienced eye irritation, hair loss, lung damage, and heart problems.

For further information, see the new toxicological profile on ATSDR’s website. A fact sheet about antimony is also available.

ATSDR toxicological profiles characterize the toxicology and adverse health effects information for hazardous substances. Each peer-reviewed profile identifies and reviews the key literature that describes a substance's toxicological properties. Health and toxicologic information on the potential for human exposure; chemical and physical properties; regulations and guidelines; and production, import, use, and disposal can also be found in ATSDR’s toxicological profiles. A full list of toxic substances with published profiles is available on the agency’s website.