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Sources, consumer exposure and risks of organotin contamination in seafood

Contract number : QLK1-2001-01437
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 513.000
EC contribution : € 374.500
Starting date : 1/01/2002
Duration : 24 Months
Scientific Officer : Sigurdur Bogason
Project website : not yet available
Dr Jan-Willem Wegener
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Institute for Environmental Studies
De Boelelaan 1115
1081 HV Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel.: +31204449555
Fax: +31204449553
E-mail: jwegener @

The biocide tributyltin (TBT) is widely used in anti-fouling ship paint and accumulates through the marine food chain.

A recent literature survey revealed that in some European countries present levels of TBT in seafood exceed the Tolerable Daily Intake for humans and may pose a risk to the consumer. However, the available data were very limited and for most EU-countries no information was available. The main objective of OT -SAFE is to improve the quality of seafood in Europe and end the current uncertainty regarding TBT levels and the associated risks to consumers. An extensive database will be compiled on TBT levels in seafood at major EU fishing grounds and the possibilities to reduce the TBT content of seafood during kitchen preparation will be studied. A risk assessment will be made and maximum residue limits for TBT in seafood will be derived, taking import/export fluxes and consumption patterns into account. OT-SAFE will contribute positively to the ongoing discussion between scientists, government, industry and environmental pressure groups on the risks of TBT. If found necessary, the results will help EU-regulators to set seafood advisory guidelines.


Summarising, the objectives are to improve the quality of seafood and reduce the current uncertainty regarding its safety for consumers by:

  • Building an EU-wide database on TBT in seafood at major European seafood farms and fishing grounds;
  • Studying possibilities of TBT-level reduction in seafood during various different cooking procedures;
  • Assessing whether there is a risk for consumers associated with the consumption of TBT-containing seafood sold on the European market;

If found necessary the final results of this study can be used to assist authorities in drawing up seafood advisory guidelines.

(expected) Results and achievements

Milestones of OT-SAFE are the completion of an evaluated database on TBT levels in seafood at major shellfish farms and fishing grounds across Europe, and a full evaluation of TBT degradation during kitchen preparation of seafood. The final outcome will be a thorough risk assessment of TBT in seafood for EU consumers. Irrespective of the results, OT-SAFE will reduce the current uncertainty regarding TBT levels in seafood in Europe and the associated risks to consumers.


Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente
Divisione Tein
Via Anguillarese 301
00060 S. Maria di Galeria - Roma
Université de Pau et des Pays de L'Adour
Laboratoire de Chimie Analytique Bioinorganique et Environnement
Avenue de l'Université
64000 Pau
Galab Gbr
21502 Geesthacht
Universidad de Huelva
Dpto. de Química y Ciencia de los Materiales
Escuela Politécnica Superior
Campus de la Rábida
21819 Palos de la Frontera
The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Pakefield Road
NR33 0HT Lowestoft, Suffolk
United Kingdom

Fifth Framework Programme

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