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TBT from antifouling paint is still endangering marine life, says WWF


During the '60s the chemical industry developed efficacious anti-fouling paints using metallic compounds, in particular the organotin compounds tributyltin (TBT) and triphenyltin (TPT). These surface coatings are designed to prevent the attachment of algae, molluscs and other organisms which slow down vessel speeds.

These chemicals are highly toxic for sealife (larvae, mussels, oysters and fish). These compounds slowly "leach" into the sea water, killing barnacles and other marine life that have attached to the ship. Numerous studies have shown that these compounds persist in the water, killing sealife, harming the environment and entering the food chain.
Organotin is toxic in the marine environment at extremely low concentrations and has been shown to interfere with the biological processes in a diverse range of species. It has been found to bioaccumulate in whales and other sea mammals and disrupt the endocrine system of a range of invertebrates leading to sterility and death. For this reason, they have been banned in many European countries, while several Community directives (Directive 76/769/EEC and the successive amendments thereto) provide for regular monitoring of organotin compound levels.

The WWF study:
The WWF said member countries of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), including the UK, are still allowing the toxin tributyltin (TBT) to contaminate wildlife and enter the food chain.

The environmental group is calling on member countries to ratify their own five-year-old legislation to bring an end to the pollution. The WWF is to submit a paper tomorrow to a meeting of the IMO on the problem of TBT pollution.

Its research shows the impact on mussels, oysters, clams, abalone and gastropods as well as high contamination of a range of other marine animals such as skipjack tuna and harbour porpoises.

Dr Simon Walmsley, head of WWF-UK's marine programme, said: "This is a scandal the world should be ashamed of. "Forty years after TBT's negative impacts were first identified and five years after the legislation to ban it was agreed, TBT is still used indiscriminately, polluting global marine life and our food chain." Only 17 out of 166 member countries of the IMO have ratified the legislation.

However, the majority of the shipping industry supports a ban, with only unscrupulous operators still using it. The leading paint companies have not produced TBT since 2003 and market commercially viable alternatives instead.

Dr Walmsley added: "Generally the shipping and paint industries support the legislation being ratified. Delegates at the IMO whose countries have not signed up - including the UK - should be ashamed. "This is the most toxic chemical ever deliberately released into the marine environment and there is no excuse for doing it."

The negative impacts of TBT were first suspected in the late 1960s. It has been shown to change the sex of dog whelks, has caused oyster crops failures in France and has closed shellfish farms.

The WWF said it contaminates wildlife in the open ocean as well as in coastal waters.

After 2008, EU legislation will ban the use of TBT on EU-flagged vessels and any ship painted with it will be refused entry to EU ports. WWF said the size of the EU market meant this would be enough to hamper any shipping company's trade.

Anyhow, because of the great stability of TBT, it will probably stay in the environment for a while even after total banning.

 Related studies (1997-2006):

The situation in the environment after the partial ban of TBT

 D. Minchin, J. Oehlmann, C.B. Duggan, E. Stroben, M. Keatinge, Marine TBT antifouling contamination in Ireland, following legislation in 1987, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 30 (1995) 633-639. DOI: 10.1016/0025-326X(95)00016-G

 I. Tolosa, J.W. Readman, A. Blaevoet, S. Ghilini, J. Bartocci, Milena Horvat, Contamination of mediterranean (Côte D'Azur) Coastal Waters by Organotins and Irgarol 1051 Used in Antifouling Paints, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 32 (1996) 335-341. DOI: 10.1016/0025-326X(96)00013-6

 Y.K. Chau, R.J. Maguire, M. Brown, F. Yang, S.P. Batchelor, Occurence of organotin compounds in the Canadian aquatic environment five years after the regulation of antifouling uses of tributyltin, Water Qual. Res. J. Canada, 32 (1997) 453-521. DOI: 10.2166/wqrj.1997.029

 S. Hashimoto, M. Watanabe, Y. Noda, T. Hayashi, Y. Kurita, Y. Takasu, A. Otsuki, Concentration and distribution of butyltin compounds in a heavy tanker route in the Strait of Malacca and in Tokyo Bay, Mar. Environ. Res., 45/2 (1998) 169-177. DOI: 10.1016/S0141-1136(97)00031-7

 Pierre Michel, Bernard Averty, Contamination of French coastal waters by organotin compounds: 1997 update, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 38/4 (1999) 268-275. DOI: 10.1016/S0025-326X(98)90144-8

 Michael A. Champ, A review of organotin regulatory strategies, pending actions, related costs and benefits, Sci. Total Environ., 258 (2000) 21-71. DOI: 10.1016/S0048-9697(00)00506-4

 S. Díez, M. Abalos, J.M. Bayona, Organotin contamination in sediments from the Western Mediterranean enclosures following 10 years of TBT regulation, Water Research, 36/4 (2002) 905-918. DOI: 10.1016/s0043-1354(01)00305-0

 Andrew P. Negri, Luke D. Smith, Nicole S. Webster, Andrew J. Heyward, Understanding ship-grounding impacts on a coral reef: potential effects of anti-foulant paint contamination on coral recruitment, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 44 (2002) 111-117. DOI: 10.1016/s0025-326x(01)00128-x

 Heinz Rüdel, Peter Lepper, Jürgen Steinhanses, Christa Schröter-Kermani, Retrospective Monitoring of Organotin Compounds in Marine Biota from 1985 to 1999: Results from the German Environmental Specimen Bank,  Environ. Sci. Technol., 37/9 (2003) 1731-1738. DOI: 10.1021/es026059i

 I. Omae, Organotin antifouling paints and their alternatives, Appl. Organomet. Chem., 17/2 (2003) 81-105.  DOI: 10.1002/aoc.396

 Raquel N. Goldberg, A. Averbuj, M. Cledón, D. Luzzatto, N. Sbarbati Nudelman, Search for triorganotins along the Mar del Plata (Argentina) marine coast: finding of tributyltin in egg capsules of a snail Adelomelon brasiliana (Lamarck, 1822) population showing imposex effects, Appl. Organomet. Chem., 18/3 (2004) 117-123. DOI: 10.1002/aoc.590

 M. Inoue, A. Suzuki, M. Nohara, H. Kan, A. Edward, H. Kawahata, Coral skeletal tin and copper concentrations at Pohnpei, Micronesia: possible index for marine pollution by toxic anti-biofouling paints, Environ. Pollut., 129/3 (2004) 399-407. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2003.11.009

 R. Murai, S. Takahashi, S. Tanabe, I. Takeuchi, Status of butyltin pollution along the coasts of western Japan in 2001, 11 years after partial restrictions on the usage of tributyltin, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 51/8-12 (2005) 940-949. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2005.06.043

Accumulation of TBT in aquatic organisms

 K.S. Guruge, H. Iwata, H. Tanaka, S. Tanabe, Butyltin accumulation in the liver and kidney of seabirds, Mar. Environ. Res., 44 (1997) 191-199. DOI: 10.1016/S0141-1136(97)00001-9

 K.S. Guruge, S. Tanabe, M. Fukuda, S. Yamagishi, R. Tatsukawa, Comparative tissue distribution of butyltin compounds in common cormorans (Phalacrocorax carbo) from Japan, Toxicol. Environ. Chem., 58 (1997) 197-208. DOI: 10.1080/02772249709358409

Bathini Madhusree, Shinsuke Tanabe, Ayaka Amaha Öztüprk, Ryo Tatsukawa, Nobuyuki Miyazaki, Emin Özdamar, Orhan Aral, Osman Samsun, Bayram Öztürk, Contamination by butyltin compounds in harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) from the Black Sea, Fresenius J. Anal. Chem., 359/3 (1997) 244-248. DOI: 10.1007/s002160050567

K. Kannan, K. Senthilkumar, B.G. Loganathan, S. Takahashi, D.K. Odell, S. Tanabe, Elevated accumulation of tributyltin and its breakdown products in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) found stranded along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Environ. Sci. Technol., 31 (1997) 296-301. DOI: 10.1021/es960657d

 H. Iwata, S. Tanabe, R. Tatsukawa, Bioaccumulation of butyltin compounds in marine mammals: the specific tissue distribution and composition, Appl. Organomet. Chem., 11/4 (1997) 257-264. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0739(199704)11:4<257::AID-AOC575>3.0.CO;2-2

 K. Kannan, K. Senthilkumar, J.E. Elliott, L.A. Feyk, J.P. Giesy, Occurence of Butyltin Compounds in Tissues of Water Birds and Seaducks from the United States and Canada, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol., 35 (1998) 64-69. DOI: 10.1007/s002449900350

 Shinsuke Tanabe, Maricar Prudente, Takahiko Mizuno, Jun Hasegawa, Hisato
Iwata, Nobuyuki Miyazaki, Butyltin Contamination in Marine Mammals from North Pacific and Asian Coastal Waters, Environ. Sci. Technol., 32/2 (1998) 193-198. DOI: 10.1021/es970543h

 F. Yang, Y.K. Chau, R.J. Maguire, Occurence of Butyltin Compounds in Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas), Appl. Organomet. Chem., 12/8-9 (1998) 651-656. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0739(199808/09)12:8/9<651::AID-AOC770>3.0.CO;2-Z

K. Kannan, K.S. Guruge, N.J. Thomas, S. Tanabe, J.P. Giesy, Butyltin residues in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) found dead along California coastal waters, Environ. Sci. Technol., 32 (1998) 1169-1175. DOI: 10.1021/es970914u

 N. Folsvik, J.A. Berge, E.M. Brevik, M. Walday, Quantification of organotin compounds and determination of imposex in populations of dogwhelks (Nucella lapillus) from Norway, Chemosphere, 38/3 (1999) 681-691. DOI: 10.1016/S0045-6535(98)00202-1

 Le Thi Hai Le, Shin Takahashi, Kazutoshi Saeki, Nobutake Nakatani, Shinsuke
Tanabe,  Nobuyuki Miyazaki, Yoshihiro Fujise, High Percentage of Butyltin Residues in Total Tin in the Livers of Cetaceans from Japanese Coastal Waters, Environ. Sci. Technol., 33/11 (1999) 1781-1786. DOI: 10.1021/es980624t

 R. St-Louis, S. de Mora, E. Pelletier, B. Doidge, D. Leclair, I. Mikaelian, D. Martineau, Hepatic Butyltin Concentrations in Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the St Lawrence Estuary and Northern Quebec, Canada, Appl. Organomet. Chem., 14/4 (2000) 218-226.  DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0739(200004)14:4<218::AID-AOC983>3.0.CO;2-R

 John Arthur Berge, Einar M. Brevik, Arne Bjorge, Norunn Folsvik, Geir Wing
Gabrielsen, Hans Wolkers, Organotins in marine mammals and seabirds from Norwegian territory, J. Environ. Monit., 6/2 (2004) 108-112. DOI: 10.1039/B311662J

 C.C. Lee, T. Wang, C.Y. Hsieh, C.J. Tien, Organotin contamination in fishes with different living patterns and its implications for human health risk in Taiwan, Environ. Pollut., 137/2 (2005) 198-208. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2005.02.011

L.H. el Hassani, A.G. Frenich, J.L. Martinez Vidal, M.J.S. Muros, M.H. Benajiba, Study of the accumulation of tributyltin and triphenyltin compounds and their main metabolites in the sea bass, Dicentrachus labrax, under laboratory conditions, Sci. Total Environ., 348/1-3 (2005) 191-198.  DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2004.12.061

Pei-Jie Menga, Jih-Terng Wang, Li-Lian Liu, Ming-Hui Chen, Tsu-Chang Hung, Toxicity and bioaccumulation of tributyltin and triphenyltin on oysters and rock shells collected from Taiwan mariculture area, Sci. Total Environ., 349/1-3 (2005) 140-149. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.01.016

Jakob Strand, Jens A. Jacobsen, Accumulation and trophic transfer of organotins in a marine food web from the Danish coastal waters, Sci. Total Environ., 350 (2005) 72-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.02.039

Ruiqiang Yang, Qunfang Zhou, Jiyan Liu, Guibin Jiang, Butyltins compounds in molluscs from Chinese Bohai coastal waters, Food Chem., 97/4 (2006) 637-643. DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.03.049

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last time modified: june 24, 2020


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