Emerging Issues in Environmental Health

There are many environmental factors that influence the health and livelihoods of people living on the planet. These include: exposure to hazardous substances in the air, water, soil, and food, natural and technological disasters, climate change, occupational hazards, and the built environment.

One example that demonstrates the overlap between these factors and the effect that can be had on public health is exposure to antimony. Antimony is a metal that is mixed with a wide variety of other metals, including lead and zinc, to create alloys. These antimony alloys are used to create lead storage batteries, solder, sheet, and pipe metal, etc. The compound antimony trioxide is also utilized when making polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles. Antimony is introduced into the environment when ores that are partially made up of antimony are mined and processed, and by incinerators and coal power plants. People can potentially be exposed to antimony through air, water, and by eating food that contains it. Antimony exposure can also be a hazard if people live or work near antimony mines. People can also be exposed to antimony if they work in industries that process antimony ore. As a result of an exposure to this deleterious substance, individuals can develop heart or lung problems. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that antimony trioxide is most likely carcinogenic to humans, and can lead to the development of lung cancer in workers.