Antimony is a chemical element with symbol Sb (from Latin: stibium) and atomic number 51. A lustrous grey metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3).
Antimony compounds have been known since ancient times and were used for cosmetics. Nowadays Antimony is mainly used as its trioxide in making flame-proofing compounds and in certain alloys. The Egyptians had a hieroglyph for Antimony……
Antimony has no known biological role, but it is a potent toxin, with effects that are similar to arsenic poisoning. When ingested, antimony strongly bonds to sulfur-containing enzymes, thereby inactivating them. Antimony is even more toxic when inhaled as the gas, stibine, SbH3. Poisoning by antimony ingestion manifests as gastric distress, and large doses cause vomiting, and kidney and liver damage, followed by death a few days later.
It was thought that Mozart was a victim of poisoning at the hand of rival composer, Antonio Salieri, although historians don’t give this hypothesis any credence. It is far more likely that Mozart was poisoned by his doctors. A heavy drinker, Mozart was known to also overindulge in the popular hangover cure of the day that contains antimony, tartar emetic, C4H4KO7Sb, which was provided by his doctors.
For some time, China has been the largest producer of antimony and its compounds, with most production coming from the Xikuangshan Mine in Hunan. The industrial methods to produce antimony are roasting and subsequent carbothermal reduction or direct reduction of stibnite with iron.
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