Categories
IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 051: Antimony: Ancient eyeliner and bullets

Element 51 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is antimony. Used in antiquity as eyeliner and mascara, today antimony finds uses in fire retardants, car batteries and bullets.

Antimony is one of the elements known since ancient times. Antimony sulfide (stibnite) was ground into a powder called kohl which could then be used as an eye cosmetic. It is still used for this purpose in some cultures today. The contamination of kohl with lead has been highlighted as a particular health concern, though there are conflicting accounts in the research on this issue.

Antimony trioxide is used as a flame retardant in combination with halogenated flame retardants or halogenated polymers. It’s found in items such as children’s clothing, car seat covers, and toys.

Lead, a relatively soft metal, can have small amounts of antimony added to it to increase its hardness. This alloy finds use in bullets, solder, car batteries, and organ pipes.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry‚Äôs dedicated page.