The principal hazard of antimony is that of intoxication by ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption. The respiratory tract is the most important route of entry since antimony is so frequently encountered as a fine airborne dust, although ingestion may occur through swallowing dust or through contamination of beverages, food or tobacco. Skin absorption is less common but may occur when antimony is in prolonged contact with skin.
Antimony is stable at room temperature but, when heated, burns brilliantly giving off dense white fumes of antimony oxide. It is closely related, chemically, to arsenic. It readily forms alloys with arsenic, lead, tin, zinc, iron and bismuth. High-purity antimony is employed in manufacture of semi-conductors. Normal purity antimony is used widely in the production of alloys to which it imparts increased hardness, mechanical strength, corrosion resistance and a low coefficient of friction.
The dust encountered in antimony mining may contain free silica and cases of pneumoconiosis termed 'silico-antimoniosis' have been reported among antimony miners. During processing, the antimony ore, which is extremely brittle, is converted into fine dust more rapidly than the accompanying rock, leading to high atmospheric concentrations of fine dust during such operations as reduction and screening. Furnacemen refining metallic antimony and producing antimony alloy, and workers setting type in the printing industry are all exposed to antimony metal dust and fume