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Antimony is a silvery, hard and brittle solid that forms scale-like crystals or dark gray powder. It is insoluble in water and very toxic by ingestion and inhalation. It reacts violently with halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine) to form antimony hydride SbH3 and with nascent hydrogen to give off toxic fumes of Sb(H)3. Antimony is used in lead alloys to provide hardness and strength. It is also a dopant in semiconductor manufacturing. Antimony trioxide is an effective flame retardant.
Antimony may be found in the environment as a result of mining or smelting activities. It is released into the air and can contaminate soils and waterways. Exposure to high levels of antimony from inhalation at the workplace or through skin contact with contaminated soil can cause irritation to the eyes and lungs and problems with the heart, stomach and liver. Fatalities from antimony poisoning are rare.
Ingestion of antimony powder or soluble compounds can cause vomiting, colic, loss of appetite and weight, dry scaly skin, skin problems and liver and kidney damage. Inhalation of dust or fumes containing antimony can lead to nausea and headache. Antimony is highly toxic to birds. It is a strong cholinesterase inhibitor.