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France Says TiO2 Could be Carcinogenic

Friday, June 10, 2016

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A new proposal in Europe seeks to label titanium dioxide (TiO2)—a substance commonly used in paints, construction materials and other industrial and consumer goods—as a human carcinogen.

France’s Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) suggests that TiO2 is likely a category 1B carcinogen by inhalation.

Room painted white
© iStock.com / Scovad

Titanium dioxide, a white, inorganic substance, occurs naturally in several kinds of rock and mineral sands and can be manufactured for use as a pigment or as a nanomaterial. It is commonly used in paints and coatings formulations.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) released the ANSES dossier May 31, which proposes a harmonized classification for the substance, according to the American Coatings Association and other reports.

The comment period for the proposal will close July 15. The chemicals agency will then have 18 months to make a recommendation to the European Commission, which will make the final call on the proposal.

The white inorganic substance occurs naturally in several kinds of rock and mineral sands and has been used in many products for decades. It can be manufactured for use as a pigment or as a nanomaterial.

Potential Impact

"If the French proposal to classify titanium dioxide as a 1B (human carcinogen) under ECHA's [Regulation on the Classification, Labeling and Packaging of Substances and Mixtures] CLP is accepted, it may require all paints formulated with TiO2 within the EU to be classified as carcinogens," Stephen Wieroniey of the ACA told D+D News.

This would affect all products sold in the countries that make up the 28 EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

ECHA logo

The European Chemicals Agency released the ANSES dossier May 31, which proposes a harmonized classification for the substance.

Under the CLP, substances identified as category 1A and 1B carcinogens are restricted in consumer applications, meaning paint formulations would not be available to consumers.

Thus, paint and coating products containing TiO2 could only be sold to professional users under the new classification, he noted.

"In addition, if this classification formally approved by the European Commission, ACA expects that it could have impact across the global marketplace, as environmental groups and national governments may embrace the EU classification as a basis for their own requirements," Wieroniey added.

Industry Responds

In a statement issued in response to the proposal, the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association, a nonprofit group of Cefic: the European Chemical Industry Council, reports it already assessed the substance’s classification six years ago.

In that assessment, submitted under the EU Chemicals Policy known as the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulations (REACH), the industry found that, based on assessment of the scientifically valid studies, "TiO2 should not be classified in any of its forms for any end points."

"[That conclusion was] supported by the findings of epidemiology studies of 20,000 workers in 15 Titanium Dioxide manufacturing plants over several decades which showed no adverse health effects from occupational exposure," TDMA added.

The industry assessment has further been updated with new findings and subsequent studies, according to TDMA.

However, the association says it is “carefully reviewing” the French proposal and will provide “a detailed response to the ECHA public consulation.”

ACA also reports it is monitoring the issue, along with its European counterpart CEPE, to ensure the paint and coatings industry is appropriately represented during the regulatory process.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Coatings raw materials manufacturers; Construction chemicals; Health and safety; Pigments; Raw materials; Titanium dioxide

Comment from Robert Bullard, (6/10/2016, 10:52 AM)

My (expensive) experience with so-called photocatalytic TiO2 paint is that it does not work in suppressing mildew growth.

Comment from peter gibson, (6/10/2016, 11:06 AM)

Really....what nonsense. Lots of people in white lab coats looking for something to do.Dont believe it for a minute.

Comment from Adam Carter, (6/10/2016, 11:51 AM)

I don't see what photo catalytic TiO2 paint has to do with an article about TiO2 possibly being labelled a carcinogen...? I wouldn't use photocatalytic paint primarily for mildew prevention, I would look for something with integrated biocide and fungicides. Was it outdoors? Without UV there is no photocatalytic activity to be had anyways. I just hope this doesn't turn into some sort of giant scare wave. TiO2 is produced and used in massive quantities and is found in virtually every paint besides deep blacks, as well as cosmetics, susncreens, plastics, composites, etc. Just waiting for the reactionary OMG Facebook posts saying a silent killer is lurking on every wall across the world. In general ANY fine particles (nanomaterials of increasing concern) are bad for your health

Comment from Bill Mackay, (6/11/2016, 6:51 AM)

I have been spraying TiO2 nano particle surface treatments for over 10 years. This includes 2 days spraying for NIOSH with multiple air sampling collection points both on my person and in the immediate environment. I have never had an issue (or any cancer) and the procedure used (HVLP application)was listed by NIOSH as safe.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (6/13/2016, 9:24 AM)

When did general chemistry become "nano"? This is the second article from D+D I've read that is bending the term and muddying the waters of a descriptor that serves a useful purpose in identifying a specialized subset within a field or discipline. It's like calling bourbon "nano water".

Comment from peter gibson, (6/13/2016, 11:59 AM)

This is like the Johnson & Johnson talc case. Scare tactics so the disgusting lawyers can jump in and shake down business. We have seen this in the composites industry with styrene. All this theory hurts business.But hey...men in lab coats have to justify their big fat salaries.

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