Children highly exposed to titanium dioxide: Study

Found in a white food colour additive used in confectionery products, it is suggested that titanium dioxide has a link to asthma and Crohn’s disease even though no health risks have been established.

Concurring to the research, ‘Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles in Food and Personal Care Products’, the highest content of titanium dioxide nanoparticles appeared in confectionery products and particularly chewing gum.

89 foods, ranging from dairy products to confectionery goods, were tested that contained the white colour E171. Chewing gum products such as Mentos Freshmint Gum, Eclipse Spearmint Gum and Trident White peppermint gum were found to contain the most titanium dioxide.

According to the researchers’ Monte Carlo human exposure analysis, children had the highest exposures to titanium dioxide as they consumed more sweet products than adults.

However, a 2010 toxicity study of titanium dioxide from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) suggested an asthma risk through inhalation and classed titanium dioxide as ‘possibly carcinogenic’.

Nevertheless, the authors of the present study said: “However, a risk assessment has not been published yet and care has to be taken when comparing exposure to effect”.

A spokesperson from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said: “We are not aware of any scientific data supporting possible carcinogenic effects of oral exposure to titanium dioxide.

“In its 2004 Opinion, the former EFSA AFC Panel reported a 2­-year oral carcinogenicity study in mice and rats which was considered negative. Another study in which rats were administered titanium dioxide coated mica in the diet for 130 weeks was also negative.”

The spokesperson added: “It was further reported that the working group found little evidence of an increased risk for cancer in humans based on the relatively few epidemiological studies available”.

Nevertheless, titanium dioxide is limited in the food it is used. In the US, the limit for titanium dioxide is at 1% to the weight of the food.

The EU permits titanium dioxide since it is “needed” in foodstuffs. However, EFSA’s ANS Panel is currently reviewing titanium dioxide as part of a reevaluation of approved food additives.

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