Is Titanium Dioxide Carcinogenic?

Recently, there has been quite some discussion about the use of titanium dioxide by the industry and its application in consumer products. Some would rate titanium dioxide as a possible carcinogenic substance and some would say that there is not sufficient evidence to support this claim.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified titanium dioxide as a Group 2B carcinogen. Meaning that it is possibly carcinogenic to humans by means of inhalation.

At the same time, the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA), has a different opinion. They wrote that “the IARC found inadequate evidence in humans but sufficient evidence of cancer risk in animals and that EU’s decision to classify titanium dioxide as a possible carcinogen by inhalation is not based on any new scientific evidence, but rather reflects an extra precautionary approach to the well-known hazard of breathing too much dust in general”.

What is titanium dioxide?

When two highly regarded institutions publish such different results, this leads to confusion. As a result, it is difficult for companies to make decisions. Let’s make it a little clearer by first taking a closer look at the substance itself. What is Titanium dioxide?

Titanium dioxide is a powdery white pigment and is used in a wide variety of consumer products such as toothpaste, paint, plastics. In the food industry known under food colorant E171. Titanium dioxide is often labeled CI 77891 on personal care products such as sun cream.  It is almost unavoidable that most people come into contact with titanium dioxide. You can read more about Titanium Dioxide regulations here.

Dust Extraction - JOA Air Solutions

Working in a dusty environment is unhealthy, period

Regardless of which side you are on, dust and in particular fine poor soluble (semi toxic) dust is bad for your lungs and health. Some dust ignites easy and explodes when the circumstance is right. In the industry, powders and not only Titanium Dioxide are often emptied from bags, big-bags or containers in process equipment such as dosing feeders and hoppers. Precisely in these situations, when the dust extraction system fails or is not present, fine powders also escape to the working environment of operators.

Besides that dust becomes airborne in operator areas, finally, dust will settle on equipment, structural beams, floors, etc. Which requires plant cleaning activities. In general, many companies apply a general maximum emission limit of 5 mg/m3 for respirable dust. For (semi) toxic soluble substances, other maximum emission limits are permitted. Unfortunately in many factories, operators are still exposed to too high dust and vapor emission levels during these processes and are risking health issues.

Concluding towards a Healthy Work Environment

No matter who is right in the discussion around titanium dioxide. Dust, in general, is proven to be unhealthy and in some cases even explosive (also see: Healthy Work Environment) . This means also for titanium dioxide it is important to be cautious and to make sure you protect your workers and your factory with the right equipment. At JOA we innovate air for over 22 years and in our opinion, there is no operator that likes to work in a dusty work environment.