Tin in Your Vitamin?

I got caught up for a good twenty minutes at the drug store the other day, trying to decide on a new multivitamin. Usually, I take a vitamin B complex and a vitamin D supplement, and that’s it — the rest of the vitamin alphabet I can get from my diet, but I feel like I need some help with the D and the Bs.

The problem began when the drug store was out of my usual brand of vitamin D. Oh no! Complicating the problem was the fact that all vitamins from the same brand were buy one get one free, so I couldn’t just pick out a different brand of D. That would be too easy, and I’m not one to pass up a BOGO opportunity.

So I had to pick something else. I started looking at multivitamins, because I figured they were my best bet for finding something that included the vitamin D I actually wanted. But when I started reading the labels, I saw something I didn’t expect: tin. A bunch of the multivitamins I picked up included tin. And I thought that was kind of weird.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) had a handy fact sheet on tin, and whether or not tin was safe for human consumption. Some highlights:

  • Tin can combine with certain other chemicals to form “inorganic tin compounds”. These are found in toothpaste, perfumes, food dyes, and more — products that are safe for use in and on the human body.
  • Tin can combine with carbon to form “organotin compounds”. These are used to make plastics, and other things that are not safe for human consumption.
  • Metallic tin — tin that is not combined with other compounds — is not well absorbed by the body. Tin is not water soluble.
  • When ingested in large quantities, inorganic tin compounds can cause stomach problems, kidney problems, liver problems, and anemia.
  • Breathing, swallowing, or skin contact with some organotins can interfere with brain function and/or nervous system function.

All in all? I don’t get the feeling that I need an extra boost of tin in my multivitamin. Metallic tin would more or less pass right through me, and I probably get plenty of inorganic tin compound exposure through products I already use (like toothpaste) and foods I already eat.