Bismuth Compounds

Two-thirds of bismuth produced in the United States is made into drugs, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals. The most widely used compound is bismuth subsalicylate (Bi(C 7 H 5 O 3 ) 3 ), the active ingredient in many over-the-counter stomach remedies. An over-the-counter drug is one that can be sold without a prescription.  A recently released bismuth compound is used to treat ulcers, a common stomach problem.

Other compounds used in medicine include bismuth ammonium citrate (Bi(NH 4 ) 3 (C 6 H 5 O 7 ) 2 ), bismuth citrate (BiC 6 H 5 O 7 ) 2 ), bismuth subgallate (Bi(OH) 2 OOCC 6 H 2 (OH) 3 ), and bismuth tannate. These compounds are used to treat a large variety of problems, including burns, stomach ulcers, intestinal disorders, and in veterinary applications.

Bismuth compounds are also widely used in cosmetics. Bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl) is a lustrous white powder added to face powder. Bismuth subcarbonate [(BiO) 2 CO 3 ] and bismuth subnitrate [4BiNO 3 (OH) 2 ? BiO(OH)] are also white powders used to give a pearl-like luster to lipstick, eyeshadow, and other cosmetics.

There is increasing interest in using bismuth as a substitute for lead in alloys. Lead is toxic to humans and animals.

Hazard:  Bismuth and its compounds are not thought to be health hazards. In fact, bismuth compounds are used in medications. A recently released bismuth compound is used to treat ulcers, a common stomach problem.