Urinary tin (Sn) provides an indication of recent or ongoing exposure to the metal, and endogenous detoxification to a lesser extent. Sn has no known physiological function in the body. Inorganic Sn has a low potential for toxicity, while organic Sn may have appreciable toxic effects.
Metallic Sn and inorganic Sn compounds are normally found in small amounts in soil, food and air. Exposure to Sn compounds may be much higher in close proximity to hazardous waste sites. Inorganic Sn is poorly absorbed from the gut. The main source of Sn is food. Canned tomatoes, tomato products, pineapple, pears and similar fruits contain the highest concentrations of Sn. The Sn concentrations of food increase with storage in opened cans.
Other possible sources of inorganic Sn include: dinnerware, preservatives, food and beverage containers, cosmetics, pewter, bronze, and anticorrosive plating. Children who eat dirt (pica) may have increased exposure to Sn if the soil is contaminated. Inhalation of fumes (solder, welding) or dusts containing high amounts of Sn may result in irritation of the respiratory tract.
Inhalation, oral, or dermal exposure to some organotin compounds may have harmful effects. Potential toxic effects depend on the particular organotin compound. Organotin compounds, such as butyltin, are used in the manufacture of some plastics, food packages, certain PVC pipes, pesticides, paints, wood preservatives, and rodent repellants. Routine use of silicon-coated baking parchment paper may contribute to exposure to organotin.
Toxic effects of Sn compounds are related, in part, to the interference with the iron and copper metabolism. Very high exposure to organotin compounds may be associated with skin and eye irritation, respiratory irritation, gastrointestinal effects, muscle weakness, anemia, and neurological and kidney problems.
Hair elemental analysis may be used to assess exposure to Sn over the past 2-4 months.
Chelation may acutely increase urinary excretion of Sn.
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