Does your favorite soda, juice, water, tea, or energy drink contain toxic heavy metal antimony? It’s very possible if you are drinking it from a plastic PET bottle. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best water filters for PFAS filtering, surprising fast food products with no PFAS in packaging, & cooking oils without PFAS “forever chemicals,” now join us as we bring you the results of a recent consumer study by Defend Our Health about antimony levels in plastic beverages.
Antimony — a Toxic Heavy Metal in PET Plastics That’s Wise to Avoid
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry under the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antimony is used in textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire during processing and is problematic to health. It’s also used in paints, ceramics, fireworks, enamels, lead storage batteries, solder, sheet & pipe metal, bearings, castings, and pewter.
This silvery-white metal is found in the earth’s crust and are mined with other metals to form antimony alloys or combined with oxygen to form antimony oxide. Lots of antimony is used in the manufacturing of plastic and polyester used for clothing, especially the most common type of plastic–polyethylene terephthalate (PET). More than 83 million metric tons of PET were produced in 2019, accounting for 19% of all plastics production worldwide.
Toxic antimony isn’t the only problematic chemical used in the processing of PET plastics, there are others:
- Compounds of antimony and cobalt, which are known to cause cancer and organ toxicity, are also used as processing aids or additives in PET and often escape exposing humans when consuming beverages in plastic bottles.
- When manufactured, toxic ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are routinely emitted into the air and discharged as waste impacting local communities.
- Ethylene glycol, a reproductive toxicant that can harm the intrauterine development of a baby, is also used in the production of PET.
California considers antimony a toxic substance and restricts it’s levels in drinking water to between 1-6 parts per billion (ppb), whereas 1ppb is the health goal. So what about the health effects? Sometimes antimony is used as a medicine to treat people with leishmaniasis (kala-azar), an infection caused by a protozoan parasite. When this happens, the side effects are stomach pain and ulcers, diarrhea, and vomiting. Ingesting large doses of antimony can also cause vomiting. Antimony is also known to trigger lichen planus — a recurring itchy inflammatory rash on the skin or in the mouth from contact with the heavy metal.
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