You’ve likely never heard of food-grade titanium dioxide or TiO2. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t been exposed to it. In fact, this common food additive could even be in some of the food or personal care products in your home right now.
TiO2, or E171 as it’s sometimes known in its food grade form, is a brightening agent that’s often used in gums, toothpastes, white sauces, drink mixes, powdered puddings, marshmallow, cake icings, powdered sugar toppings, candies and other sweets in the U.S. and France.
In other words, many of us are ingesting TiO2 on a regular basis.
According to a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology kids under 10 in the US are being exposed to around 1-2 mg a day of TiO2. And the rest of us are averaging around 0.2–0.7 mg a day.1
40% of lab rats developed lesions
Questions about titanium dioxide’s safety for humans and the environment aren’t exactly new. In studies dating back to 2002 and 2012 researchers warned that TiO2 may be linked to asthma (when inhaled) and Crohn’s disease.2,3 A 2009 animal study published in the journal Cancer Research found the additive induces DNA damage and genetic instability.4 And the pigment has been classified as a possible carcinogen.5
But French officials have now raised a red flag and are calling for an inquiry into the additive’s safety. Troubling research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has linked E171 to colon cancer in animal experiments.6
Researchers from the IRNA Agricultural Research Institute fed lab rats E171 in their drinking water for 100 days. A stunning 40 percent of the rodents developed precancerous lesions in their colons.
Common food additive could promote cancer
But the bad news didn’t stop there. The additive also suppressed the animal’s immune systems and spurred the growth of lesions the scientists had induced for the experiment.
The researchers concluded that E171 both initiates and promotes the early stages of colorectal cancer. They urged that the data they gathered be used to evaluate the additives potential role in autoimmune disease and colorectal cancer.
And although they scientists stopped short of speculating what effect the additive might have on humans, France’s ministry of health, agriculture and economy was concerned enough to order an immediate inquiry.
Avoiding titanium dioxide can be a challenge. The additive often isn’t listed on labels. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows manufactures to use up to one percent of food grade TiO2 in their products without ever disclosing it.7
In other words, we’re on our own here folks. Which means the best way to try to reduce your exposure to titanium dioxide is to eat real foods and meals you fix yourself from scratch.
To avoid TiO2 in your toothpaste try making your own at home. One recipe we like is to simply mix one teaspoon of baking soda, a drop of pure essential peppermint oil, and few drops of water to form a paste. You’ll end up with an effective toothpaste that works just as well as the commercial brands, but that comes without any of the additive dangers.