Do you know what titanium dioxide is? In addition to helping products resist discoloration, it also adds whiteness and brightness – and, research suggests, it may be causing you brain damage.
While titanium dioxide’s most frequent use is in paints, it’s also regularly added to products we each use every day – including cosmetics, foods, paper, pharmaceuticals, and toothpaste.
While it’s normally considered relatively safe, nanoparticle development of titanium dioxide changes everything – especially as nanoparticles’ small size means they can permeate skin, ending up in your bloodstream as a result.
Evidence suggests that some nanoparticles may induce toxic effects in your brain and cause nerve damage, and some may also be carcinogenic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies titanium dioxide as a Group 2B carcinogen, which means it’s “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This was based on an animal study showing inhaling high concentrations of titanium dioxide dust may lead to lung cancer.
Candies, sweets and chewing gum have been found to contain the highest levels of titanium dioxide. White powdered doughnuts, candies and gums with hard shells, products with white icing and even bread, mayonnaise, yogurt and other dairy products may contain titanium dioxide. All of this means that children are disproportionately at risk.
Given that research published in Environmental Science and Technology notes that up to 36 percent of the titanium dioxide found in nearly 90 food products was of the nanoparticle variety, and that the FDA doesn’t require it labeled unless it’s at least 1% of the contents, that’s terribly concerning.
One animal study published in Cancer Research, for instance, found titanium dioxide nanoparticles may induce clastogenicity (causing breaks in chromosomes), genotoxicity, oxidative DNA damage and inflammation – are those things you want for your children?
We also know that titanium dioxide nanoparticles are capable of moving from your lungs or gastrointestinal tract to other organs, and given that animal studies show significant accumulation of nanoparticles in the brain, while toxicity studies have shown the particles have negative effects on brain cell viability and function, we should be concerned.
One recent study even showed titanium dioxide nanoparticles induced “an increase in reactive oxygen species generation, and a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, suggesting mitochondrial damage.”
As a result, researchers believe exposure to the particles may lead to neurological dysfunction; in fact, high levels of exposure (100 parts per million) killed two-thirds of such brain cells within one day.
Other research also suggests titanium dioxide nanoparticles may have hidden brain risks.
- Prenatal exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles may result in alteration to the cerebral cortex, olfactory bulb and brain regions intimately related to dopamine systems of offspring mice.
- Exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles may alter oxidative and inflammatory responses as well as the renin-angiotensin system in the brain (which plays a role in cardiovascular health, including hypertension, and aging), thereby modulating brain function.
- Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2 NPs) induce strong oxidative stress and mitochondrial damage in glial cells in your brain.
Given that titanium dioxide nanoparticles are most often found in personal care products, the implications should be astounding.
As noted by Environmental Science and Toxicology:
The only FDA-stipulated limitation for sunscreens is that the TiO2 concentration be less than 25%. Most have a lower concentration, between 2% and 15%. With the wide prevalence of sunscreen use and the lack of a distinction between TiO2 nanomaterials and larger-sized particles, the general public is being exposed to nanomaterials of which they are largely ignorant.
So how do you avoid titanium dioxide? It isn’t easy.
Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are ubiquitous in processed foods, so the best way to avoid them is to eat real food. To avoid these particles in your toothpaste, consider making your own out of coconut oil.
As for sunscreen, the other major source, first realize that titanium dioxide (and zinc oxide) is a top choice for sun protection (and doesn’t carry the same risks as hormone-disrupting sunscreen chemical oxybenzone).
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