Antimony hair levels reflect past or chronic skin exposure, inhalation or ingestion of this element. Hair is a preferred tissue for analysis of antimony exposure and body burden.
- Antimony is a nonessential element considered by some to be more toxic than arsenic, but others say it is less toxic.
- Like arsenic, Antimony has a high affinity for sulfhydryl groups on many enzymes.
- Antimony is conjugated with glutathione and excreted in urine and feces. Therefore, excessive exposure to antimony has the potential to deplete intracellular glutathione pools.
- Antimony’s deposition in body tissues and its detrimental effects depend upon the oxidation state of the element.
- Antimony affects liver functions, impairs enzymes, and may interfere with sulfur chemistry.
- If antimony impairs phosphofructokinase (PFK), then purine metabolism may be disrupted, resulting in elevated blood and/or urine levels of hypoxanthine, uric acid and possibly ammonia.
- Antimony deposits in bone, kidney, and in organs of the endocrine system.
- “Antimony spots” may result from skin contact with antimony salts and vapors.
- Trans-dermal absorption can also lead to “antimony spots” which resemble chicken pox.
- Respiratory tissue irritation may result from inhalation of antimony particles or dust.
A confirmatory test for recent or current exposure is the measurement of Antimony in the urine.
Elevated hair antimony levels have been noted as long as a year after exposure.
Possible sources of antimony:
- Food and smoking are the usual sources of antimony. Thus cigarette smoke can externally contaminate hair, as well as contribute to uptake via inhalation.
- Gunpowder (ammunition) often contains antimony. Firearm enthusiasts often have elevated levels of antimony in hair.
Other possible sources are:
- textile industry,
- metal alloys,
- and some anti-helminthic and anti-protozoal drugs.
- Antimony is also used in the manufacture of paints, glass, ceramics, solder, batteries, bearing metals and semiconductors.
Symptoms can be variable, including fatigue, myopathy (muscle aches and inflammation), hypotension, angina and immune dysregulation.
Early signs of Antimony excess include:
- muscle weakness,
- low back pain,
- and metallic taste.
Later symptoms include:
- hemolytic anemia,
- and renal failure.
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