Editorials

Antimony and health

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6989.1216 (Published 13 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1216
  1. Frederik A De Wolff
  1. Professor of human toxicology Department of Human Toxicology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

    Incriminating stibine in the sudden infant death syndrome is difficult on current evidence

    Antimony is a metal in group Vb of the periodic system, just below arsenic, with which it shares several chemical and toxicological properties. Considered to be a non-essential trace element, it occurs naturally in the trivalent and pentavalent states with sulphur, mainly as stibnite ore (Sb2S3).1

    Antimony's main applications are industrial—it is used in alloys for hardening lead (for example, in batteries and bullets); in flame retardants for plastics; in semiconductors; and in therapeutics, in which it is applied in organic forms such as sodium stibogluconate in the treatment of leishmaniasis. Antimony potassium tartrate has been used as an emetic and as an intravenously administered anthelmintic.2 Relatively little is known of the toxicity of antimony compared with that of metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, or arsenic. Recently, attention has been drawn to its possible role in the sudden infant death syndrome.3 4

    The toxic effects of metals are related to the chemical form to which peoples are exposed. “Antimony toxicity” does not exist; every compound of the metal must be considered to be a separate toxicological entity. …

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