Inorganic and organic
1.6 How can tin and tin compounds affect children?
This section discusses potential health effects from exposures during the period from conception to maturity at 18 years
of age in humans.
Children can be exposed to tin compounds (inorganic or organic) in the same manner as adults: through the diet or by
contact with contaminated soil at or near hazardous waste sites where these compounds are found. Some children eat
significant amounts of dirt (a behavior called pica), which may lead to increased exposure if the soil is contaminated. In
addition, children can be exposed if family members work with tin compounds and bring home tin residues in their
clothing or tools.
There are no studies on health effects in children exposed to tin compounds. However, it is reasonable to assume that
children would exhibit the same type of health effects observed in exposed adults. We do not know whether children are
more susceptible to the effects of exposure to tin and tin compounds than adults. There are no reports of adverse
developmental effects in humans exposed to tin or its compounds, nor of inorganic tin in animals. Studies in animals
have shown that organotin compounds can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. Exposure of rodents to some
organotins during pregnancy has produced birth defects in the newborn animals. The results of several studies suggest
that this may occur only at high exposure levels that cause maternal toxicity, but further research is needed to clarify this
issue. One study found that rats whose mothers were exposed to tributyltin during pregnancy showed altered
performance in some neurological tests conducted when they were young adults. Another study, also with tributyltin,
found that exposure during gestation, lactation, and post-lactation affected some developmental landmarks in female
rats. There are no reports of tin or tin compounds in human breast milk, and there is no direct evidence in animals of
transfer of these compounds to the young through nursing
1.5 How can tin and tin compounds affect my health?
Because inorganic tin compounds usually enter and leave your body rapidly after you breathe or eat them, they do not
usually cause harmful effects. However, humans who swallowed large amounts of inorganic tin in a research study
suffered stomach aches, anemia, and liver and kidney problems. Studies with inorganic tin in animals have shown similar
effects to those observed in humans. There is no evidence that inorganic tin compounds affect reproductive functions,
produce birth defects, or cause genetic changes. Inorganic tin compounds are not known to cause cancer.
Inhalation (breathing in), oral (eating or drinking), or dermal exposure (skin contact) to some organotin compounds has
been shown to cause harmful effects in humans, but the main effect will depend on the particular organotin compound.
There have been reports of skin and eye irritation, respiratory irritation, gastrointestinal effects, and neurological
problems in humans exposed for a short period of time to high amounts of certain organotin compounds. Some
neurological problems have persisted for years after the poisoning occurred. Lethal cases have been reported following
ingestion of very high amounts. Studies in animals have shown that certain organotins mainly affect the immune system,
but a different type primarily affects the nervous system. Yet, there are some organotins that exhibit very low toxicity.
Exposure of pregnant rats and mice to some organotin compounds has reduced fertility and caused stillbirth, but
scientists still are not sure whether this occurs only with doses that are also toxic to the mother. Some animal studies
also suggested that reproductive organs of males may be affected. There are no studies of cancer in humans exposed
to organotin compounds. Studies of a few organotins in animals suggest that some organotin compounds can produce
cancer. On the basis of no data in humans and questionable data from a study in rats, EPA has determined that one
specific organotin, tributyltin oxide, is not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity; that is, it is not known whether or not
it causes cancer in humans