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Issue 12, 2005
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Occupational exposure to antimony compounds

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The toxicology of antimony and its compounds is known from three sources: its medicinal use over centuries, studies of process workers in more recent times, and more recent still, studies of its presence in modern city environments and in domestic environments. Gross exposure to antimony compounds over long periods, usually the sulfide (SbS3) or the oxide (Sb2O3) has occurred in antimony miners and in antimony process workers. There have been relatively few of these, and few studies of possible symptoms have been made. Antimony sulfide imported from, at different times, China, South Africa, and South America was processed in the North-East of England from about 1870 to 2003. The process workers in North-East England have been studied at different times, notably by Sir Thomas Oliver in 1933, and by the Newcastle upon Tyne University Department of Occupational Medicine on later occasions. Studies which have been made of the working environment, and in particular of the risk of lung cancer in process workers, have underlined the high levels of exposure to antimony compounds and to other toxic materials. However, the working conditions in antimony processing have improved markedly over the last 30 years, and the workforce had been much reduced in numbers following automation of the process. Prior to the cessation of the industry in the UK it had become a ‘white coat’ operation with relatively few people exposed to high concentrations of antimony. Antimony, which is normally present in domestic environments, has also been studied as a possible cause of cot death syndrome (SIDS) but extensive investigations have not confirmed this. The full importance of environmental antimony has still to be determined, and evidence of specific effects has not yet been presented.

Graphical abstract: Occupational exposure to antimony compounds

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Article information

27 Jun 2005
10 Oct 2005
First published
26 Oct 2005

J. Environ. Monit., 2005,7, 1245-1250
Article type

Occupational exposure to antimony compounds

R. I. McCallum, J. Environ. Monit., 2005, 7, 1245
DOI: 10.1039/B509118G

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