Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles are the main component of sunscreens and wall paints. Thus humans generally come into contact with TiO2 nanoparticles via the skin. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are classified to be non-toxic. Therefore unintentional swallowing is considered to be harmless. There is no significant evidence for a nano-specific risk. Coarse titanium dioxide which contains no nanoparticles is allowed for use in food and is used as a whitener in toothpaste.

 

How can I come into contact with this material?

child with sunscreen © Sunny-studio /fotolia.comBy applying sunscreen to your skin you also apply titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These particles however do not pass through healthy or sunburnt skin. Wounds however should be treated with wound ointment instead. Self-cleaning wall paints contain TiO2 nanoparticles which are fixed within the paintwork after drying, thus humans do not get exposed to these particles. In addition, titanium dioxide contained in tiles, flagstones and solar panels are also present in a bound manner. As there are no titanium dioxide nanoparticles released during the day-to-day use it is highly unlikely for these particles to enter the human body.

However, in all major applications the bound titanium dioxide nanoparticles may eventually leach out into the environment, but as yet there have been no negative effects shown for humans or wildlife. Nevertheless this requires further research.

 

Is there any risk from this material to humans and the environment?

Only very high concentrations of titanium dioxide show toxic effects. This means that inhalation of titanium dioxide particles, as for all dusty particles, should be avoided even though there is no evidence for significant impairment of the human lung. If swallowed titanium dioxide nanoparticles are not toxic. Indeed, titanium dioxide is approved and sold as white food colouring agent with the identification code E171, but without any further specification of the particle size.

 

Conclusion

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles do not enter the human body through intact skin. In other applications than sunscreen the nanoparticles are generally not free to move, because they are firmly bound in a matrix. Food can only be whitened with micro-scaled titanium dioxide particles.

 

By the way...

  • All grinding work causes dust which always contains a certain amount of nanoparticles regardless of whether the ground material previously did contain any nanoparticle. The amount of particles in the air (dust) can be reduced by wet grinding, which also reduces the generation of nanoparticles.
  • Sunscreen with a sun protection factor higher than 25 can't be realised without usage of titanium dioxide. High rating sun factor lotions are important in reducing the number of casualties through skin cancer. The only available alternative to titanium dioxide to manufacture sunscreens with a sun protection factor equal to 25 would be using chemicals which evidently show health side effects.

 

 

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