Classification of titanium dioxide: Chemical industry sees the need for an impact assessment
VCI warns against a European Commission decision of major consequence
EU Commission prepares a decision on the classification of white pigment titanium dioxide ++ Proposed classification is questionable from a toxicological point of view ++ VCI advocates to regulate titanium dioxide by means of a general Europen dust limit value under occupational health and safety ++ Titanium dioxide is being used safely for decades and ranking among the most thoroughly examined substances.
In a meeting with experts next Wednesday (18 September), the EU Commission wants to discuss and prepare a far-reaching decision for industry, regarding the white pigment titanium dioxide (TiO2). It is about a classification of TiO2 as “a substance suspected of causing cancer in humans by inhalation.” The German chemical industry association VCI calls upon the Commission in Brussels to support Germany’s proposal and to regulate titanium dioxide by means of a general dust limit value under occupational health and safety. Gerd Romanowski, VCI executive director of Science, Technical and Environmental Affairs, substantiates the industry’s proposal: “Within a single market, the EU Commission should lay down just one harmonised European limit value for poorly soluble dusts at the workplace, instead of setting a scientifically unfounded precedent.” According to the VCI, there is no substance-specific effect of the white pigment TiO2 but a general effect of dusts on lungs.
From toxicological aspects, a classification is neither expedient nor proportionate, so the VCI. The association holds that there is no reason to change the use of this white pigment in consumer products. Romanowski: “A classification can cause much uncertainty among consumers, even though titanium dioxide has been used safely for decades and ranks among the most thoroughly examined substances.”
A classification would also have significant impacts on the relevant industries – with enormous economic consequences: Powder products containing TiO2 would have to be classified and labelled. This is why the VCI sees the urgent need for an impact assessment. Romanowski takes a critical stance: “We cannot understand why the EU Commission has so far refused to carry out such an assessment. After all, the Commission has committed itself to perform impact assessments where major economic, ecological and social effects must be expected.”
The discussion about a classification of titanium dioxide was based on studies in rats which had inhaled extremely high concentrations of TiO2 dust. That led to “lung overload” effects due to the inhalation of dust particles. However, the results from lung overload studies in rats cannot be transferred to humans. It is also worth noting that epidemiological studies show no correlation between workplace exposure to TiO2 dust and a cancer risk. In Germany, dust exposure at the workplace is already particularly strictly regulated under a general dust limit value. Dusts occur mainly at the workplace. Therefore, existing regulation in occupational health and safety in the form of a general dust limit value is the suitable instrument to protect human health.
Titanium dioxide is the most widely used white pigment. Its outstanding technical properties make it an input material in almost all industries and value chains, e.g. in paints, coatings, plastics or paper production where TiO2 is usually bound in a matrix such as a binder or a polymer.
The VCI represents the politico-economic interests of around 1,700 German chemical companies and German subsidiaries of foreign businesses. For this purpose, the VCI is in contact with politicians, public authorities, other industries, science and media. In 2019 the German chemical industry realised sales of over 198 billion euros and employed around 464,000 staff.