Titanium dioxide is a mineral composed of oxygen and titanium. It has a number of applications and is found in food, cosmetic products and medications.
In the cosmetics industry, it's used as a white colorant in toothpastes, creams, loose powders and hair sprays. It's also used as a UV filter in many sunscreen products.
The rating of titanium dioxide is different depending on whether it's in nano or non-nano form:
- The word [nano] in square brackets must be listed when titanium dioxide is present as nanoparticles in the product.
Titanium dioxide is most controversial when present in nanoparticle form, as these very small molecules could pass through various physiological barriers and enter the body. For this reason, the ANSM recommends that cosmetic products containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles should not be used on damaged and permeable skin.
Research on nanoparticles is ongoing to develop a more comprehensive understanding of their long-term effects and potential risks to humans. It is important to emphasize that, due to their size and composition, they remain difficult to detect and assess.
Existing studies appear of sufficient concern to have led to the EU banning titanium dioxide in nano form in sprayed and aerosol sunscreen products that could lead to lung exposure (sprays and aerosols).
This is why it's classified as moderate risk (orange dot).
- Non-nano titanium dioxide could present problems if swallowed or inhaled.
A number of studies have established risks in the event of ingestion, which is why it has been banned in the EU as a food additive. A recent INRAE study also established that titanium dioxide particles can pass directly through the mucous membranes of the mouth.
The ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) has classified it as a suspected type 2 carcinogen via inhalation following a referral from ANSES (Agence Nationale Sécurité Sanitaire Alimentaire Nationale), which requested that it be classified as a type 1B carcinogen. Based on studies conducted on animals, ANSES believes that its carcinogenic character is established. However, the ECHA's classification was recently rescinded by the EU General Court, but this non-final decision is currently being appealed to the EU Court of Justice.
This is why it's classified as a moderate risk (orange dot) in the analysis of toothpastes and sunscreen (non-nano).
- In products that are not likely to be inhaled or ingested, non-nano titanium dioxide is classified as low risk (yellow dot), as the particles would be too large to enter the skin when applied.