Antimony trioxide (ATO) is frequently utilized as a co-synergist to increase the efficacy of halogenated flame retardants. According to earlier, less well-validated investigations, antimony trioxide is not a genotoxic carcinogen, according to recent and comprehensive genotoxicity tests and a critical evaluation by the Eu Commission.
Antimony trioxide should not negatively impact your health, but there is still debate over whether inhaling particles could pose a cancer risk; therefore, further information on specific exposure is needed. However, exposure is usually negligible in most cases relative to sensitivity to ATO from other factors in the residential and urban environment.
Production and properties
In 2002, ATO was produced globally at 130,000 tons in 2012, up from 112,600 tons. China is the country that produces the most, followed by Europe, US/Mexico, South Africa, Japan, and other nations (all 2%).
As of 2010, four locations in EU27 were producing antimony(III) oxide. It can be made in two approaches: by oxidizing antimony steel and re-volatilizing crude ATO. Antimony metal oxidation, in the EU, is prevalent. Several methods exist for creating metallic antimony or crude ATO from raw materials. The ore’s structure and other factors influence the process choice.
The usual phases are mining, ore grinding, and crushing, occasionally followed by metal separation and froth flotation using pyrometallurgical procedures (roasting and smelting) or, in several situations (for instance, whenever the ore has precious metals) by hydrometallurgical operations. The procedures are carried out nearer the mining zone than in the EU.
About 10,000 and 25,000 tons of antimony(III) oxide are consumed annually in Europe and the US, respectively. Its primary use is like a synergistic flame retardant with halogenated substances. To help create less combustible chars, antimony and halides work together to give polymers their flame-retardant properties. You can find these flame retardants in electrical equipment, clothing, coatings, and leather.
The primary usage of ATO in brominated and chlorinated flame retardants serves as a chemical synergist to boost the efficacy of the retardants. Antimony trioxide-based flame retardants are frequently used to manufacture paints, rubber, textiles, and plastics.
ATO is the primary catalyst to create polyester and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) fibers. PET is frequently utilized in the plastic used to package soft drinks and water. Some ceramics and glasses are also used as clarifying agents and pigments. Since 1995, antimony trioxide has been a preferred alternative to arsenic oxide as an ingredient in optical glass.
Lead storage solder, batteries, pipe metal and sheet, bearings, pewter, and castings are among the products that use antimony metal, which boosts the strength and hardness of lead alloys.
If elemental antimony is oxidized and heated, antimony trioxide is formed.
Overview of Environmental Exposures
Dermal touch with household objects containing flame retardants, like paint, furniture upholstery, and mattress covers, is the principal way the general public is exposed to ATO. Environmental Protection Agency data indicates that emissions from this route are minimal. Food, air, and drinking water are other sources of environmental exposure.
Because of its low solubility in water, antimony trioxide concentrations in water are generally low. Higher levels of exposure may be present around petroleum products and coal being burned, as well as near incinerators and smelters. Smokers and those around secondhand smoke have been linked to increased levels of ATO exposure.
Industrial Bio-Test Labs, Inc.’s regulated human study from 1973 revealed no skin reactions, proving antimony trioxide is not a skin irritant. Haskell Laboratory (1970a, b) administered 4 intradermal injections of 1 mg ATO in either propylene glycol or acetone dimethyl phthalate solutions or 9 dermal apps of 31 mg ATO/kg (25%) or 49 mg ATO/kg (50%) in an acetone/fat/dioxane mixture to teams of 5 guinea pigs with abraded and shaved skin. Every set of animals underwent challenging administrations of the suspension both on intact and abraded skin following a 2-week rest period. None of the test animals showed signs of sensitization.
A solitary dermal exposure to 8 g/kg ATO resulted in the death of one of every four rabbits. A single exposure to 2 g/kg ATO resulted in one out of every four rabbits dying (Myers et al., 1978). (Ebbens 1972). Following a brief (20-21 days) exposure to an unknown quantity of antimony trioxide, 3 out of 8 rabbits (out of the total of eight) developed systemic toxicity and died, though not rats (Fleming, 1938). The lung, liver, kidneys, and stomach all displayed gross abnormalities.
White crystalline ATO is solid. It cannot dissolve in water. The risk to the environment is the main risk. To prevent it from spreading to the environment, you must take action immediately.
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