Tin (Sn) is a metal element used as a metal alloy or in the form of organotin compounds. Tin is used as an alloy to create bronze and pewter, and is also used as plating on metals like steel. Organotins are used as stabilizers in PVC  products, particularly in rigid PVC products (Modern Plastics Handbook 2000). They are also used as catalysts in silicone production.Organic tin compounds often consist of one, two, or three organic molecules attached to an atom of tin. Those with one or two organic molecules are often used to stabilize PVC plastic and are more likely to be present in children's toys, whereas those with three organic molecules are primarily used as pesticides (Modern Plastics Handbook 2000).


Health Effects

Depending on the form and level of exposure:

  • Exposure to high levels of inorganic tin may cause symptoms including stomach aches, liver and kidney problems, and anemia.

  • Organic forms, known as organotins, are believed to be toxic at lower levels of exposure. Several tin compounds cause nervous system harm, including tributyl tin, dibutyl tin, trimethyl tin, and dimethyl tin (Cooke 2004, Jenkins 2004, ASTRD).

  • The developing brain is particularly vulnerable. Dibutyl tin is toxic to nervous system cells at concentrations similar to those found in people today (Jenkins 2004).

  • Some forms of organotin, like tributyl tin and dibutyl tin, are also toxic to the immune system (Cooke 2004).


ATSDR. Toxicological Profile for Tin. Toxic Substances Portal (2011).

Harper, C. A. Modern plastics handbook. (McGraw-Hill, 2000).

Jenkins, S. M., Ehman, K. & Barone, S. Structure-activity comparison of organotin species: Dibutyltin is a developmental neurotoxicant in vitro and in vivo. Dev. Brain Res. 151, 1–12 (2004).

Published on September 27, 2016

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