Antimony (Sb) is a silver-white metal found in the earth's crust. The antimony ores are extracted and then mixed with other metals to form alloys or in combination with oxygen to form antimony oxide. Antimony is not used alone because it breaks easily but when mixed in alloys, it is used in lead batteries, welds, metal tubes, bearings, etc. Antimony oxide is added to textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire. It is also used in paints, ceramics, fireworks, and as a coating on plastic, metal and glass surfaces.
How is someone exposed to Antimony?
- As antimony is naturally found in the environment, the general population is exposed to low doses every day, mainly from food, drinking water, and air.
- It may be in the air near industries that process it, such as foundries, coal-fired plants, and incinerators.
- In affected areas with high levels of antimony, there may be air, water, and soil exposure.
- Workers in industries that process or use antimony ores may be exposed to higher doses.
How can antimony affect human health?
Exposure to high levels of antimony can lead to various adverse health effects. High-dose inhalation for an extended period can irritate the eyes and lungs and can cause heart and lung problems, stomach aches and pains, diarrhea, and vomiting.
In short-term studies, animals that inhaled very high doses of antimony died. Experimental animals that inhaled high doses of antimony caused damage to the lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys. In long-term studies, animals that inhaled very low doses of antimony had eye irritation, hair loss, lung damage, heart problems, and fertility problems have also been observed.
Ingestion of large doses of antimony can cause vomiting. No other effects that may be caused by swallowing are known. In long-term studies in experimental animals, liver damage and changes in blood cells have been reported. On contact with skin, antimony can cause skin irritation.
Antimony has been used as a medicine to treat patients infected with parasites (Leishmaniasis). Antimony is excreted by the body through the urine.
Because certain antimony compounds are used as catalysts in the production of plastics for water, soft drinks, and juice (PET) packaging, they may also be sources of exposure to antimony.
In clinical practice, the use of DMPS is effective in mobilizing and excreting bismuth, mercury (organic and inorganic), copper, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, tin, tungsten, and gold, but does not affect aluminum or uranium excretion. In the majority of adult patients, mercury is the predominant metal eliminated after using DMPS. DMPS-mobilized metals are mainly excreted by the kidneys and to a much lesser extent by the liver (bile/stool). Another chelating agent for the mobilization of metals by the body, DMSA, is used in challenge tests, as well as for detoxification from lead, mercury, and other sulfhydryl reactive metals (e.g., arsenic, antimony). Several studies have shown the efficacy of DMSA in increasing renal excretion of lead and mercury and in lowering the blood levels of these metals.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.