Strontium has few industrial applications but these tend to be quite unusual such as pyrotechnic production (tracer bullets, signal flares, fireworks), extraction of sugar from sugar beet molasses, and in the manufacture of glass used for television tubes.
The main clinical interest derives from the observation that its metabolic properties are similar to those of calcium. A simple test to measure intestinal absorption of calcium using non-radioactive strontium, rather than the radio-isotope 45Ca has been described.
Forensic examination of cases of drowning may include the measurement of strontium. Concentrations of this element are high in sea water and influence the post mortem blood strontium concentration so as to confirm drowning in situations where there is ambiguity concerning the cause of death.
Acute toxicity, with respiratory failure and death, was reported after intravenous administration to animals. Chronic ingestion of high doses of strontium does not interfere with calcium metabolism in bone.
Pulmonary exposure to strontium is less well tolerated. Following one-month inhalation experiments, impaired function and structural changes were seen in the kidney, liver, cardiovascular, blood and nervous systems.
No adverse effects have been reported among subjects with occupational exposure to strontium.
Laboratory Indices of Exposure
The urinary excretion of strontium can be measured. In the assessment of calcium absorption, serum strontium concentrations are measured before and four hours after an oral dose of strontium.
Milsom S, Ibbertson K, Hannan S, Shaw D, Pybus J. Simple test of intestinal calcium absorption measured by stable strontium. BMJ 1987; 295: 231-4
Azparren J, de la Rosa I, Sancho M. Biventricular measurement of blood strontium in real cases of drowning. Forensic Sci Int 1994; 69: 139-48