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BgVV: Sources of TBT burden in man

02/2000, 13.01.2000

According to more recent analytical studies, certain clothing textiles are contaminated in some cases with impurities of tributyl tin (TBT) and other organic tin compounds. TBT levels of up to 99.1 microgram TBT per kilogram were found in textiles.

Years ago BgVV already classified tributyl tin compounds as substances associated with the risk of serious health damage in conjunction with longer exposure. Since the beginning of the 1990s TBT has no longer been used in tested wood preservatives in Germany at the instigation of the public authorities. More recently a possible effect of this substance group on the hormonal system has been discussed.

In the opinion of BgVV tributyl tin compounds should not be used in human clothing. Up to now, the residues identified in clothing did not constitute a concrete risk to health. Nevertheless, consumers are advised to ask about possible impurities prior to purchase. If he already possesses suspect textiles, the consumer is advised to wash them intensively several times over. The contamination of textiles with TBT residues can be avoided in this way.

The contamination with organic tin compounds detected in textiles has prompted BgVV to work towards stemming these sources. Besides commodities like textiles, foods are also a potential source of contamination. Foods of marine origin, in particular fish and mussels, may be contaminated through the use of TBT in antifouling agents in ship's bottom paints. BgVV points out that, at present, there are no statutory maximum levels for TBT compounds in foods. BgVV, therefore, supports the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Health to elaborate such levels as quickly as possible.

BgVV will shortly make available a suitable analytical method for tributyl tin so that uniform methods can be used when collecting and comparing residue data in order to determine the contamination of commodities and foods.

Furthermore, BgVV believes that more extensive statutory measures are required in order to ban organic tin compounds. The reasons given for these measures will have to be scientifically backed in order to survive in the European and international arena. Thus, BgVV intends to stage a public expert hearing on the risk assessment of TBT to examine whether and, if so, from what amounts upwards TBT compounds could have an effect on the hormonal system of human beings and animals.

In the last few days, industry has been called on to submit the data available to it on the contamination of commodities and foods with TBT compounds.

The occurrence of organotin compounds in clothing textiles should trigger the examination of existing national and international provisions in order to determine whether they sufficiently guarantee that only those substances are used in consumer commodities which have been examined in respect of their health risk and found to be safe.


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