This article reviews the literature related to the bioavailability of tin, inorganic tin compounds, and organotin compounds. On the one hand, the toxicity of metallic tin and inorganic tin compounds is low. In aqueous systems, the potential bioavailability of tin seems to depend on the concentration of the truly dissolved ion species. Some studies suggest that tin is an essential trace element for humans. However, organotin compounds have been proven to be of toxicological relevance. Triorganotin compounds are particularly toxic explaining their wide use as biocides (e.g., in antifouling paints or pesticides). Persistence of organotin compounds is governed by moderate to fast aerobic biotic degradation processes, slow anaerobic biotic degradation, slow abiotic degradation by photolysis, and fast, but reversible, adsorption/desorption processes. Organotin compounds are ubiquitously distributed in aquatic organisms. Bioconcentration in organisms and ecotoxicity are dependent on the bioavailable fraction. The bioavailability is highest at neutral and slightly alkaline pH and is reduced in the presence of dissolved organic carbon. The biomagnification of organotin compounds via the food chain is of minor importance compared with the bioconcentration from the water phase.
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