Titanium Dioxide: Toxic or Safe?

Titanium dioxide is the subject of new controversy, yet it is a substance as old as the earth itself. It is one of the top fifty chemicals produced worldwide. It is a white, opaque and naturally- occurring mineral found in two main forms: rutile and anatase. Both forms contain pure titanium dioxide that is bound to impurities. Titanium dioxide is chemically processed to remove these impurities, leaving the pure, white pigment available for use. Titanium dioxide has a variety of uses, as it is odorless and absorbent. This mineral can be found in many products, ranging from paint to food to cosmetics. In cosmetics, it serves several purposes. It is a white pigment, an opacifier and a sunscreen. Concern has arisen from studies that have pointed to titanium dioxide as a carcinogen and photocatalyst, thus creating fear in consumers. But are these claims true? What does the research on these allegations bear out? Would we as consumers benefit from avoiding this mineral to preserve our long-term health?

A carcinogen is a substance that causes a cellular malfunction, causing the cell to become cancerous and thus potentially lethal to the surrounding tissue and ultimately the body as these rapidly growing mutated cells take over. With 光觸媒燈泡 the surge in cancer rates among all segments of the population, many people are attempting to reduce or eliminate their exposure to carcinogens. Titanium dioxide is regarded as an inert, non-toxic substance by many regulatory bodies such as the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and others charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the health of occupational workers and public health. The MSDS states that titanium dioxide can cause some lung fibrosis at fifty times the nuisance dust, defined by the US Department of Labor as 15 mg/m cubed (OSHA) or 10 mg/m cubed (ACGIH Threshold Limit Value). The ACGIH states that titanium dioxide is “not classifiable as a human carcinogen”. Symptoms of chronic overexposure to titanium dioxide in an industrial setting, according to the MSDS, include a “slight increase in lung tumour incidence in lab rats”. It also states “when titanium dioxide was fed to rats/mice in a carcinogen bioassay, it was not carcinogenic”. The NIOSH declares that at 5000 mg/m cubed there was slight lung fibrosis, concluding that this substance was carcinogenic in rats.

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