Toothpaste, wall paints or chewing gum titanium dioxide apparently carcinogenic
The white pigment titanium dioxide is suspected of causing cancer. The chemical is found among others in wall paint, sunscreen, toothpaste and chewing gum. However, the substance only seems to be dangerous under very specific circumstances.
White pigment in many everyday things
The white pigment titanium dioxide is part of many things of everyday life. The chemical is used, for example, in sunscreen, chewing gum, toothpastes, paints and wall paints. The substance can also be found in food. There it is listed as additive E171. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has recently announced that it classifies titanium dioxide as "possibly carcinogenic". Nevertheless, there is no cause for great concern for the general population.
Possibly carcinogenic to humans
Titanium dioxide has long been suspected of harming health. Only a few months ago, French researchers in the journal Nature reported that E171 has detrimental effects on the immune system in rats.
The substance could therefore - in rats - lead to intestinal inflammation and promote precursors of cancer.
According to ECHA, there is also a suspicion of cancer, but so far only for inhaled titanium dioxide and only when very large quantities enter the lungs.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified titanium dioxide as category 2B "possibly carcinogenic to humans" in 2010 (ECHA and IARC categories are not identical).
Danger due to inhalation
ECHA's Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) decided on 9 June 2017 to classify titanium dioxide as "a substance suspected of causing cancer through the inhalation route - category 2, through the inhalation route".
This means that the substance is suspected of causing cancer when inhaled.
The new classification could have a significant impact, with millions of tons of the substance processed worldwide each year.
Increased lung cancer risk can not be excluded
Prof. Dr. Uwe Heinrich, former head and currently scientific adviser, Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM), Hanover, considers the decision of the RAC to be "comprehensible and justified".
"It is based on the lung tumors detected in rat animal experiments after inhalation exposure to high concentrations of titanium dioxide," according to a report by the "science media center germany"..
"Even though only inflammatory, proliferative and fibrotic effects in the lungs have been found in humans after chronic exposure to high dust concentrations, as in rats, but no significantly increased incidences of lung tumors, an increased risk of lung tumors for humans can not be ruled out." Heinrich explained.
UV protection by titanium dioxide
But by no means all experts welcome the new ECHA assessment. So had Dr. Joseph Perrone, Chief Science Officer at the Center for Accountability in Science, published a statement on the Press Portal page saying:
"Titanium Dioxide is a mineral that gives a wide range of products, from iPhones to tints to sunscreens, a bright white color and UV protection, and has been finding value in consumer goods for over 100 years."
And further: "The health-related data collected over many decades give no indication that titanium dioxide can be considered carcinogenic in humans."
No danger in the food or on the skin
Also Dr. Ulrike Diebold, Professor of Surface Science, Institute of Applied Physics, Vienna University of Technology, does not seem to understand the new order:
"There seems to me no reason to panic: if you inhale titanium dioxide as fine dust, then it seems to cause lung cancer in animal studies. However, this seems to be less due to the titanium dioxide itself, but rather because it is simply not good if you inhale small particles, "said the expert.
If these are not well soluble, they could accumulate in the lungs, causing inflammation that can cause tumors.
"People will often encounter titanium oxide in the form of pigments in paints, food additives and cosmetics. There is no evidence that titanium dioxide causes cancer when eaten or lubricated on the skin, "said Diebold.
"On the contrary: as a pigment, it replaces the previously used toxic lead oxide, and in sunscreens, it protects against carcinogenic UV radiation. Therefore, you can continue to use titanium oxide in everyday life. "(Ad)