On February 18, the European Union passed a piece of regulatory legislation regarding titanium dioxide. This legislation states that according to the European Union Classification, Labeling, and Packaging Regulation, titanium dioxide when inhaled is considered to be a class-two suspected carcinogen. The paint, oil lacquer, and printing ink industries are the leading users of titanium dioxide worldwide, and titanium dioxide is one of the most important chemicals used in these industries.
Titanium dioxide, also known as titanium white, is an inert inorganic substance, and it is used as a white pigment in many products. These products include oil lacquer, paints, and printing ink. Titanium dioxide is often chosen for its pure white color, its opacity, its brightness, and its chromatic permanence. It is an important and basic ingredient for these industries, and it provides quality that is unmatched by other materials. Titanium dioxide is also used in many other products.
Carcinogen classification of titanium dioxide may affect handling of paint materials in EU
According to recent statistics, in 2019, the paint industry consumed 3.5 million tons of titanium dioxide, accounting for 55% of all worldwide consumption. Over the past 40 years, the demand for titanium dioxide has increased by an average of 3.05% each year.
Although the European Union’s classification of titanium dioxide as a carcinigen only applies to the powder form of the material and does not apply to titanium dioxide contained in oil lacquers, paints, or printing ink, the classification also applies to trash and recycled materials containing oil lacquers, paints, printing ink, and plastics containing at least 1% titanium dioxide. This may have a significant effect on how trash and recycled materials are processed in the United Kingdom and the European Union. Furthermore, the EU has classified a wide variety of other materials containing titanium dioxide as possible carcinogens.
Manufacturers show skepticism toward purported risks of titanium dioxide
The classification of titanium dioxide as a carcinogen is based on laboratory studies involving mice. In these studies, researchers observed that in mice who inhaled large amounts of titanium dioxide dust, the lungs of these mice lost their function to remove dust from their tissue. However, a spokesperson of the British Coatings Federation argued that this phenomenon observed in mice will not occur in humans, claiming that the observed lung damage is not a result of titanium dioxide specifically, but rather an overabundance of dust particles. The spokesperson argued further that the mice in the studies were exposed to concentrations of titanium dioxide dust that were over 40 times the concentrations to which typical factory workers are exposed, and hence that the results of the study have no bearing on human health.
Many manufacturers who use titanium dioxide admit that during production, workers may come into contact with titanium dioxide dust. However, in the United Kingdom and the European Union, there exist many regulations that protect workers and minimize the amount of dust to which they are exposed. According to manufacturers, many years of research have not found any connection between exposure to titanium dioxide and an increased risk of lung cancer.
For more information on China’s TiO2 market, please check our Titanium Dioxide China Monthly Report.