Toxic Metal: The Health Dangers of Tin


tin food cans

When most people think about tin, they imagine tin cans, tin foil, and maybe even Rin Tin Tin. Tin is a naturally occurring metal of a familiar silver color. Tin is resistant to corrosion and often used as a coating for other metals such as steel. The most common example is the use of tin to line the insides of beverage cans and food containers. Tin has other metallurgic application- when it is alloyed with copper, bronze is the result. If you’ve ever seen pewter figurines or collectibles, know that they can contain up to 90% tin. Tin is a component of solder- a regular tool for plumbing applications and electrical circuits. If you check your toothpaste label you are likely to notice the ingredient “stannous fluoride” which is a tin compound. Despite, or in light of, this frequency of exposure, concerns have been raised about the safety of tin and research has shown that tin can negatively impact human health.

Exposure to Tin

Food containers that contain tin usually have a very fine layer of lacquer applied to prevent the tin from leeching into your food or drink. Unfortunately, acidic foods may compromise that protective film. If you eat seafood, be mindful of its origin as tin has been found in seafood caught off certain costal waters. Household products like toothpaste and soap may have tin compounds added.

Manufacturing and industrial facilities are often guilty of releasing toxic metals like tin into the environment. This not only affects workers, but people who live in the vicinity too (and really, all of us). High concentrations of tin are usually found in air and soil samples in and around areas where hazardous waste is present. This can present groundwater contamination concerns.

Exposure to tin is often a byproduct of modern society. Taiwan, for example, has been changing from an agricultural society to an industrial society over the past 40 years. Due to this industrial progression, incidence of occupational neurotoxic disease has increased. Most neurotoxic diseases stem from exposure to various toxic metals, including tin, and the nervous system is especially vulnerable. [1]

Tin’s Negative Effects on Health

Tumor formations have been observed in the lungs of rats that inhaled dust containing tin. [2]

The University of Medical Sciences in Iran investigated in vitro effects of several metals, including tin, on sperm creatine kinase. Reduced sperm metabolism was observed which is believed to be a cause of infertility in men. [3]

Exposure to arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and tin has been shown to affect the hematological (blood) system. [4]

Tin dust can irritate the skin and delicate tissue, particularly the eyes and respiratory system. [5]

Two studies out of Japan confirmed adverse effects from tin exposure to the lungs, particularly occupational lung disease. [6] [7]

In a study by the Department of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology at Opole University, tin was found to be extremely topic to human embryonic kidney cells. [8]

The nervous system is a target for a number of metals. Aluminum, arsenic, lead, and mercury are known to be incredibly neurotoxic. Lead and tin are thought to affect energy metabolism and can stall brain function by interfering with neurotransmitters. [9]

How Can You Reduce Your Tin Exposure?

At this time, neither the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the International Agency for Research on Cancer have yet to classify tin compounds as carcinogenic to humans so regulation is not as stringent as may be appropriate. The prevalence of tin and tin compounds in industry makes it difficult to completely avoid exposure but there are a few measures you can take. With regard to diet, eat less canned food and don’t eat seafood caught from areas known to be contaminated with tin or other toxic metals. If your occupation includes safety hazards like toxic metal exposure, your risks levels are especially high.

Tests are available to determine the presence of tin compounds in the body but do not indicate where or when exposure happened. If you’re concerned about the effect of toxic metals in your body, I recommend performing a chemical and toxic metal cleanse.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Liu CH, Huang CY, Huang CC. Occupational neurotoxic diseases in taiwan. Saf Health Work. 2012 Dec;3(4):257-67. doi: 10.5491/SHAW.2012.3.4.257. Epub 2012 Nov 30.
  2. Jiang GY, Wei SJ, Li XP, Wang LH, Mai ZD, Ge XM. [Pathological observation of lung injury in experimental animals induced by non-ferrous metal (tin) dusts]. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2012 Aug;30(8):561-6. Chinese.
  3. Ghaffari MA, Motlagh B. In vitro effect of lead, silver, tin, mercury, indium and bismuth on human sperm creatine kinase activity: a presumable mechanism for men infertility. Iran Biomed J. 2011;15(1-2):38-43.
  4. Roney N, Abadin HG, Fowler B, Pohl HR. Metal ions affecting the hematological system. Met Ions Life Sci. 2011;8:143-55.
  5. R.C.BrowneEncyclopedia of occupational health and safety col. ll/L-Z.Br J Ind Med. c.31(1);jan 1974.(1):75.
  6. Chonan T, Taguchi O, Omae K. Interstitial pulmonary disorders in indium-processing workers. Eur Respir J. 2007 Feb;29(2):317-24. Epub 2006 Oct 18.
  7. Nogami H, Shimoda T, Shoji S, Nishima S. [Pulmonary disorders in indium-processing workers]. Nihon Kokyuki Gakkai Zasshi. 2008 Jan;46(1):60-4. Japanese.
  8. Boniewska-Bernacka E, Man D, Słota R, Broda MA. Effect of tin and lead chlorotriphenyl analogues on selected living cells. J Biochem Mol Toxicol. 2011 Jul-Aug;25(4):231-7. doi: 10.1002/jbt.20380. Epub 2010 Dec 10.
  9. Clarkson TW. Metal toxicity in the central nervous system. Environ Health Perspect. 1987 Nov;75:59-64. Review.

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  • toejam

    So if i were to build a basic vaporizer out of a tin tuna can, would heating up the tin release anything harmful for me to inhale?

  • ghc_health

    It could.

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