In the field of nanotechnology, titanium oxide or TiO2 has quite a lot of uses, most especially for cosmetics and other body care products such as sunscreen. Tiny particles of TiO2 are mixed in sun protection products to serve as colorant, opacifying agent and UV light absorber. Sounds good, so far.
However, there have been concerns about the safety of this inorganic compound, which according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has low skin penetration but may be hazardous when inhaled.
The various industries that use TiO2 as ingredients in their products always claim that TiO2 is “biologically inert”. The US FDA has designated TiO2 to be “safe for general or specific, limited use in food.” These may all be true but TiO2 as nanosized particles may be as harmless as previously thought
A recent report by Swiss researchers suggests that indeed TiO2 particles can be toxic when inhaled with effects comparable to that of asbestos particles. Studies in mice showed that inhalation of TiO2 can trigger inflammation that can lead to respiratory diseases, possibly even lung cancer.
According to the Skin Deep database of EWG, some toxicological studies on TiO2 show:
TiO2 in products that may be easily airborne are especially of concern, mainly for those exposed in the workplace.
Currently, there is limited data on the health hazards on TiO2 nanoparticles but research studies are ongoing.
According to Canada’s National Occupational Health & Safety Resource:
Titanium dioxide has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen ”possibly carcinogen to humans”. Titanium dioxide accounts for 70% of the total production volume of pigments worldwide. It is widely used to provide whiteness and opacity to products such as paints, plastics, papers, inks, foods, and toothpastes. It is also used in cosmetic and skin care products, and it is present in almost every sunblock, where it helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light.
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