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Australian Government: National Measurement InstituteAustralian Government: National Measurement Institute
National Measurement Institute

Organotin in the Marine Environment

A healthy marine environment is essential for Australia’s current and future well-being. As a consequence Australia has entered into international agreements and introduced legislation to help preserve marine ecosystems and prevent marine pollution.

Organotins have been widely used in many industrial, chemical and agricultural applications. They are toxic endocrine-disruptor chemicals which bioaccumulate and even at very low levels they severely impact the health and development of marine life such as oysters and mussels.

In 2003 the International Maritime Organisation banned the use of tributyltin as a biocide in anti-fouling paint however organotins are persistent and continue to be found even in remote locations. They are common contaminants in ports and harbours and are often present at significant levels in berths and inner harbour areas. As a result, the detection of organotins at trace levels in marine samples has become increasingly important.

NMI's Capabilities

Fish in a marketIndustry Container Terminal and ShipNMI’s method for the determination of monobutyltin, dibutyltin and tributyltin (NR35) has NATA accreditation.

Our state-of-the-art facility incorporates an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) interfaced to a gas chromatograph (GC). GC-ICP-MS has the following advantages over other techniques:

  • it uses highly selective tin isotopes to minimise matrix interference and co-eluting peaks from skewing results
  • it has high sensitivity which allows low level detection
  • it is effective with complex matrices such as shell fish tissue

We also use internal standards, blanks, laboratory control spikes and surrogates to ensure accurate results.

Our sampling requirements, storage time and limits of reporting are shown below.

For further information please contact, 1300 722 845 or use our on-line form. 

Sediment and solid
Limits of reporting
0.5 µg/kg (National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009 practical quantitation limit is 9 µgSn/kg)
1 µg/kg
0.002 µg/L (Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality trigger value for 95% level of protection for tributyltin is 0.006 µg/L Sn)
50 g in glass container with teflon-lined lid
10 g wet weight in glass container with teflon-lined lid
1 L in polycarbonate or glass container
refrigerate at 4 ºC
Holding time
14 days (8 weeks if samples are frozen)