Sometime ago, a young woman came into the supplement store looking for a titanium dioxide free iron supplement. She began telling me about the research on this ingredient and the reports that it was carcinogenic. She then went on to ask why a vitamin maker would use a whitening agent only to then turn around and dye the supplement another color. The absurdity behind this process was so conspicuous; I admittedly felt a little dumbfounded. I honestly had no answer for her other than the possibility of market research leading manufacturers to believe we consumers prefer pretty colored pills to naturally hued, and whitening a substance’s natural color probably allowed another color to take better. We both had to tilt our heads and roll our eyes as the words tumbled out and over themselves, but in that moment I decided to look into the meat of the issue and find out the deal with TD.
From the research I’ve read so far, much of the studies done on the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide have been performed on rats, not unusual, and with powdered TD. Many of these studies did find that prolonged and excessive – six hours per day, five days per week, for two years- exposure of lab rats to TD dust did result in lung tumor development. And some of these studies did acknowledge the marked difference between the ways the body of a rat processes powders and dust particles in comparison to those of larger mammals like primates and humans. There are also studies, dating as far back as the 1960’s and conducted on larger mammals and humans, that tested the amounts of titanium dioxide present in the body after ingesting the substance through the diet over extended periods of time. These studies stated that no detectable amounts of TD were found in the urine, blood, kidneys or liver, giving way to the determination that dietary consumption of titanium dioxide did not lead to its absorption and thus accumulation within the human body.
So, surprise surprise, it’s a mixed bag. Findings like these enable the FDA to deem it safe for use and consumption. And boy oh boy is it used.
If you’ve become the diligent ingredient label reader I’ve encouraged, then you know what I’m talking about. TD can be found in everything from our multi colored multi vitamins to our body lotions and cosmetics. And because it occurs naturally in several minerals, it is widely used in mineral based make-up, especially the powdered foundations, bronzers, eye shadows and blushes.
So are there any benefits? Probably the more pointed question is whether the substance serves any function, has any use?
Titanium dioxide results from oxygenation of the widely present element titanium. Its strength and resistance to breakdown, along with its pigmentation make it a successful thickening and whitening agent for a variety of products like paints, inks, pills, toothpastes, cosmetics, foods and beverages. In addition, it is an able ultra violet light absorber and thus popular component of sunscreens and blocks. But is it truly, ultimately safe; and if so, then why the fuss?
Well it turns out that the nano-sized, ultra small particle form of TD is of concern to researchers. And many of them view the synthesized state as the real threat because this form is more susceptible to collisions/reactions with other particles and can potentially infiltrate otherwise protected areas of the body. It is these traits that make for an unpredictable agent with unforeseeable consequences, and thus no definitive answer to the question of long term safety.
Given the particular concern being powdered titanium dioxide and its impact on our lungs, the greater danger may be in our exposure to the inhalable forms and not the ingestible. Only time will tell for sure, but it is certainly our prerogative to play it safe. These manufacturers may provide some effective alternatives to their TD containing counterparts.
As for ingestible products containing titanium dioxide, opting for clear veggie gel capped supplements or color free pills and tablets is a relatively easy adjustment. New Chapter, NOW and Source Naturals all offer TD free vitamin and mineral options in their supplement lines. Finding a medication that is free of titanium dioxide is probably more challenging; but when faced with the need for immediate care, healing in the now naturally takes priority over questions of future challenges. For those needing to take medications over an extended period of time, there should be no hesitation in asking about any additional ingredients or additives that cause concern. Let us remember that these are our bodies, nourished by our minds and without peace of that mind, health cannot truly be obtained.
Until next time…
Be Informed, Be Selective