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Tin and Inorganic Compounds

Introduction :
Tin is a malleable white metal which can easily be rolled in thin sheets. In the soil, tin concentration varies from 2 to 200 mg/kg, and the air of the rural environment contains less than 10ng/m³. In food, the amount is probably lower than 1 mg, but this amount can increase much if ingested foodstuffs are stored in tin containers. In the absence of an inner lining (resin or lacquer), the foodstuffs stored in tin cans can contain up to 100 mg/kg.
Main compounds :
- stannic oxide,
- tin tetrachloride,
- stannic chloride,
- stannous chloride,
- stannous sulphate,
- sodium stannate,
- potassium stannate
Uses and exposure sources :
1 - Containers :
Tin covered metal sheets are used in the manufacture of cans, containers for aerosols and equipment for dairies.
Tin sheets resist corrosion and are easily welded.
2 - Alloys :
Tin is used in the manufacture of various alloys with zinc, nickel, lead, copper, etc.
3 - Other uses :
Some inorganic compounds are useful as reducing agents, mordants in the textile industry, catalysts in the plastic industry, and the chemistry of ceramic glazes.
Intoxication by inorganic tin :
A - Inhalation :
1 - Metal fume fever :
The inhalation of tin oxide fumes can cause a syndrome similar to brass fume fever.
2 - Stannosis :
Exposure to tin oxide fumes and dusts can cause a benign pneumoconiosis: stannosis.
It is a radiological finding : very small dense opacities resembling those of barytosis (barium sulphate). Generally, there are no subjective symptoms and pulmonary function tests may remain completely normal.
3 - Bronchial syndrome :
Exposure of workers in a bottle-factory to a stannous chloride solution has already caused :
- wheezing,
- exertional shortness of breath,
- cough,
- thoracic pain.
It seems that the causal agent was the hydrochloric acid released by the action of heat on the aqueous stannous chloride solution
4 - Hemolysis :
Tétrahydrogenated tin (SnH4) is a hemolytic poison.
B - Ingestion :
Accidental ingestion of inorganic tin compounds can cause a gastrointestinal syndrome characterized by nausea, vomiting and loose stools.
C-Skin :
Some inorganic tin compounds can cause irritation of the skin or the eyes because of acid or alkaline reactions produced with water.
Tin tetrachloride, stannous chloride and stannous sulphate are strong acids; sodium stannate and potassium stannate are strong alkalies.
Tin is also a contact skin sensitizer, this was confirmed by skin tests.
Quebec's exposure limit :
VEMP (Valeur d'Exposition Moyenne Pondérée) = 2mg/m³
References :
1 - Occupational Medicine,Carl Zenz, last edition.
2 - Clinical Environmental Health and Toxic Exposures, Sullivan & Krieger; last edition.
3 - Sax's Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials, Lewis C., last edition.
4 - Toxicologie Industrielle et Intoxications Professionnelles, Lauwerys R.R. last edition.
5 - Chemical Hazards of the Workplace, Proctor & Hughes, 4th edition

Out Bound Links

Edouard Bastarache M.D.
Occupational & Environmental Medicine
Author of "Substitutions for Raw Ceramic Materials"
Tracy, Québec, CANADA


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