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Environ Pollut. 2018 Jan;232:411-421. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.09.056. Epub 2017 Oct 4.

Fifteen years of imposex and tributyltin pollution monitoring along the Portuguese coast.

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Biology Department and CESAM, University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193, Aveiro, Portugal. Electronic address:
Department of Animal Biology and Ecology, University of Vigo, E-36310 Vigo, Spain.
Biology Department and CESAM, University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193, Aveiro, Portugal.


IMO's Anti-Fouling Systems convention banned the use of organotin-based antifouling systems in 2008 as the ultimate effort to stop tributyltin (TBT) inputs into the marine environment. One of the hazardous effects of TBT is imposex (the superimposition of male sexual characters onto gastropod females), a phenomenon that may cause female sterility and the gastropod populations decline. Despite previous European Union legislation had already been shown effective in reducing the imposex levels along the Portuguese coast, this study intends to confirm these decreasing trends after 2008 and describe the global evolution in the last 15 years. Imposex levels were assessed in two bioindicators - the dog-whelk Nucella lapillus and the netted-whelk Nassarius reticulatus (Gastropoda, Prosobranchia) - in 2011 and 2014, and the results were compared with previous years. Both species showed progressive decreasing trends in imposex levels over the last 15 years; median values of the vas deferens sequence index (VDSI) fell from 3.96 to 0.78 in N. lapillus and from 3.39 to 0.29 in N. reticulatus. The temporal/spatial evolution of imposex suggests an apparent shift of TBT hotspots, being now restricted to fishing ports and marinas in detriment of large commercial harbours where TBT levels fell rapidly. Butyltins were measured in the whole tissues of N. lapillus females collected in 2014: monobutyltin (MBT) varied from < DL (detection limit: 1 ng Sn/g) to 13 ng Sn/g dw, dibutyltin (DBT) from 2.2 to 27 ng Sn/g dw and TBT from 1.5 to 55 ng Sn/g dw. Although TBT body burden has declined over time, the butyltin degradation index ([MBT]+[DBT])/[TBT] exhibited values < 1 in c. a. 90% of the sites assessed, suggesting that recent TBT inputs are still widespread in the Portuguese coast eventually due to illegal use of TBT antifouling systems and TBT desorption from sediments.


Biomarker; Endocrine disruption; Imposex; Nassarius reticulatus; Nucella lapillus; Organotin

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