TBT, tributyltin cation

Organometallic compound of tin with three butyl groups

Tributyltin (TBT) compounds are very effective biocides. Amongst the class of organotin compounds they are the most relevant with respect to ecotoxicity and toxicity. The most important TBT compound is tributyltin oxide (TBTO).
Globally TBT compounds are still components of many antifouling paints for ships. Furthermore, they are partly used, e.g., in disinfectants, wood-, textile- and leather-preservation, in roofing cardboard and sanitation silicones.

TBT compounds may enter the environment during production, land application of contaminated sewage sludge and - above all - as component of antifouling paints.
Environmentally relevant characteristics of TBT compounds are:

Since 2003, antifouling agents containing tributyltin are banned in the EU and since 2006, marketing of biocides containing tributyltin is prohibited.


  • Bioindicator in rivers and lakes
  • One of the most important edible mussel species common in the North and Baltic Sea
  • As the only viviparous fish in German nearshore waters, it is a bioindicator in nearshore coastal marine ecosystems.

Sampling area

Sampling period

1985 - 2006