Following the recent announcement by EU Watchdog regarding the safety of titanium dioxide, we take a closer look at the risks associated with it and where you can find it.
Titanium Dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined, processed and refined and used as a white pigment colouring for foods and health products such as pharmaceuticals, skincare products, and toothpaste.
In a surprising number of foods and products. Typically used to ‘brighten’ a product to look whiter or more opaque. You can expect to find it in food such as white chocolate, chewing gum, milk, mayonnaise and even cheese. Its function is purely cosmetic and it holds no nutritional value as such. When used in foods it is often referred to as E171.
You can also expect to find it in skin creams, sunscreen and, of course, a great many natural and conventional toothpastes, and when used as a pigment in cosmetics or toothpastes it is called CI 7789.
In 2016, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) undertook an assessment on titanium dioxide. A significant gap in the resulting data highlighted the need for further research. At the request of the European Commission, this research was followed up in 2020 based on new scientific research.
The Studies sought to ascertain the genotoxicity of titanium dioxide. That is, the way in which a chemical substance can damage cells. Since this can lead to carcinogenic (cancerous) effects the recent findings have been a cause for concern and a European ban on titanium dioxide is under review by the European Commission.
Professor Matthew Wright, the chair of the EFSA’s team studying titanium dioxide is quoted “Although the evidence for general toxic effects was not conclusive, on the basis of the new data and strengthened methods we could not rule out a concern for genotoxicity and consequently we could not establish a safe level for daily intake of the food additive.”
In 2019, the French Government took the decision to ban the substance but thus far any other European countries have not done so. However, this is set to chance in the light of the new research and information now available on the effects of the nanoparticles used in products.
Ultimately, there is no conclusive evidence that there is a safe amount to ingest. Professor Maged Yones, the chair of the EFSA food additives and preservatives panel is quoted “A critical element in reaching this conclusion is that we could not exclude genotoxicity concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.”
Many toothpastes, both natural and conventional brands do use titanium dioxide in their ingredients.The only way to be 100% sure if your toothpaste contains titanium dioxide is to check ingredients or ask the manufacturer directly.
Fortunately we can expect to see it banned in products across in the near future. Until then, many businesses have included information regarding their ingredients which a quick Google search should be able to help you with.
At Truthpaste, we made the decision early on not to include it as one of our ingredients. Although a naturally occurring mineral, it wasn’t felt that it would ultimately be of any benefit to oral health. Combined with the controversy of it at the time, we feel like we made the right decision.
EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) (2016) Re-evaluation of Titanium Dioxide (E 171) as a food additive. EFSA Journal. First published: 14 September 2016
Younes, M., Aquilina, G., Castle, L., et al. Safety assessment of titanium dioxide (E171) as a food additive EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), First published: 06 May 2021
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Today is World Oceans Day. Whilst it’s a great opportunity to highlight the issues and problems our seas are facing on a global scale, we must also take the time to see a positive movement and how we can get involved to help.