Attendees of International Antimony Association Day in
Brussels on 13-14 November said that despite the minimal
scientific support based only on studies made on animals, the
debate to replace antimony trioxide in flame retardants could
induce policy-making that trades off chemical and fire
"There is no evidence from the antimony field that
antimony provokes cancer. Over the past 40 years Campine
employees never had cancer issues as a result of handling or
interacting with antimony trioxide," Hans Vercammen, the
business unit manager for the specialty chemicals business
unit at Campine, told Fastmarkets.
Concerns of the effect of this specialty chemical to human
health, related to its potential carcinogenicity, has
continued to feed the debate for removing it in flame
retardants. Professionals from the industry say there should
be no trade-off between toxicity and flame retardancy,
emphasizing that safety in both is needed.
The reduction of antimony trioxide in flame retardants
increases the risk of flammability and greater exposure to
fires in households or workplaces, other antimony industry
professionals told Fastmarkets at the event.
"Antimony trioxide makes the use of bromine more resource
and cost-efficient, increasing the performance of the flame
retardant polymer containing these, while reducing the
volumes of flame retardant material needed," Caroline
Braibant, secretary-general of the International Antimony
Association, told Fastmarkets.
The question of whether antimony trioxide is harmful to
human health was put forward in the United States by the
National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 2016.
The NTP started a cancer hazard assessment of antimony
trioxide on September 9, 2016. It looked at the exposure to
antimony trioxide in the workplace, when using consumer
products containing antimony trioxide or when breathing
NTP study concluded on October 19, 2018, that based upon
evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental
animals and supporting evidence from mechanistic studies
antimony trioxide is reasonably anticipated to be a human
Yet the same study concluded that the data available from
studies in humans was inadequate to evaluate the relationship
between human cancer and exposure to antimony in general.
No official policy has called for the reduction of
antimony trioxide consumption in Europe so far and demand
growth for this specialty chemical is anticipated to remain
stable in the years to come, producers and consumers at the
conference told Fastmarkets.
The use of flame retardants in buildings in China, a
country known for having low requirements for flame
retardancy in infrastructure, could trigger increased
consumption of antimony trioxide in the future due to the
growing Chinese housing market. This is yet to happen,
producers and consumers at the conference told
Fastmarkets assessed antimony
trioxide, typically min 99.5% Sb2O3, prices as unchanged
week on week at €6.50-6.80 ($7.40-7.74) per kg
in-warehouse Antwerp and Rotterdam on Tuesday November
Antimony trioxide is widely used across different consumer
products, including halogenated flame retardants, plastics,
rubber and textiles. Flame retardants account for 50% of the
end use of this specialty chemical application.
Global production of antimony trioxide is almost 110,000
tonnes per year, with China the largest single producer.