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British Coatings CEO Talks Titanium Dioxide

Friday, March 20, 2020

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CEO of the British Coatings Federation Tom Bowtell recently released a statement telling those who deal with titanium dioxide to “not be alarmed” by the European Union’s latest delegation classifying TiO2 as a carcinogen.

He noted, however, that “the paints, coatings, printing inks and wallcoverings industries have always, and will continue to take their responsibility for health, safety and the environment as their highest priority and continue to ensure that products meet the highest health and safety standards.”

Some Background

The European Chemicals Agency’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) announced June 9, 2017, that it concluded that TiO2, a substance commonly used in paints, construction materials and other industrial and consumer goods, meets the criteria to be classified as a suspected cause of cancer via inhalation, under Category 2.

This followed a French dossier that recommended cancer labeling for TiO2. At the time, French regulators argued that the substance is likely a Category 1B carcinogen, meaning it is known to cause cancer in humans. The French regulatory body ANSES sought “harmonized classification” for the substance across the entire EU.

Ondrej Mangl, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

CEO of the British Coatings Federation Tom Bowtell recently released a statement telling those who deal with titanium dioxide to “not be alarmed” by the European Union’s latest delegation classifying TiO2 as a carcinogen.

The RAC’s recommendation that it be classed in Category 2 means the body believes TiO2 is a suspected carcinogen and should be treated as if it causes cancer, but stops short of calling the substance a "known carcinogen."

TiO2, a white inorganic substance, occurs naturally in several kinds of rock and mineral sands and has been used in many products for decades. It can be manufactured for use as a pigment or as a nanomaterial.

Many in the coatings industry, including the American Coatings Association, oppose the measure.

The ACA issued a statement following the RAC’s 2017 announcement asserting that the recommendation is unfounded.

“There is considerable industry concern that the basis for the opinion is flawed and does not inform on risk to humans,” the statement read. “It is important to consider that the risks profiled are not attributable formulated products, like paint, where TiO2 dust is embedded in the mixture.”

In the coatings industry, TiO2 is most notably used as a white pigment, in industrial and protective coatings as well as architectural paints. The ACA has repeatedly expressed concerns that all paint products containing the substance could be labeled as carcinogens under the EU’s classification system.

The Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association, which represents the TiO2 industry, has also previously issued a statement expressing its disappointment in the recommendation.

“The scientific evidence is clear: There are no grounds for classifying TiO2 as carcinogenic for humans by inhalation,” said Robert Bird, chairman of the TDMA. “Also, classification would do nothing to increase the level of protection of human health and the environment, which is the whole point of the labelling and classification system.”

The REACH Committee of the European Commission met several times to discuss the matter last year, without coming to a majority decision, which put the assessment in the hands of the Commission now in the fall.

In September 2019, the Commission said after an expert hearing that it would likely follow through with the classification, despite the objections.

In a response to that, the ACA released a statement saying that it is concerned about “the potential precedent set by such a decision" and says that the basis for classifying TiO2 as a cancer hazard is unjustified.

On Oct. 4, the Commission decided to move forward with the classification.

In February, the EU published the official delegated regulation to classify titanium dioxide as a suspected carcinogen by inhalation.

© iStock.com / 4x-images

The European Chemicals Agency’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) announced June 9, 2017, that it concluded that TiO2, a substance commonly used in paints, construction materials and other industrial and consumer goods, meets the criteria to be classified as a suspected cause of cancer via inhalation, under Category 2.

With the new regulation, titanium dioxide products that are in powder form containing 1% or more of the substance with aerodynamic diameter of 10μm or less are required to carry a cancer warning on the label.

For other forms and mixtures, the classification suggests specific notes to inform the consumer of precautionary measures that should be taken to minimize hazard.

Multiple industry groups have come out in protest, including the European Council of the Paint, Printing Ink and Artists’ Colors Industry (CEPE), which has stated, according to European Coatings, that: "the reasons behind the EU Commission’s decision are not related to the chemistry of titanium dioxide, but by the simple presence of dust particles in excessive quantities in the lungs, causing chronic inflammation of the lung cells in rats.”

The Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association, which also mentioned the rat study in its statement, has reportedly said that it is looking at the available options, including taking legal action against the EU.

BCF Statement

“The one scientific study behind the classification was based on tests with rats, where respirable titanium dioxide dust was inhaled in excessive quantities, leading to significant impairment of particle clearance mechanisms in the rats’ lungs,” Botwell said in his statement.

Botwell continues saying that such an effect would not happen in human lungs. “The effect is not caused by the chemistry of titanium dioxide but by the simple presence of dust particles in excessive quantities in the lungs, causing chronic inflammation of the rats’ lung cells. On top of this, the rats were exposed to levels of titanium dioxide approximately 40 times the maximum a factory worker might be exposed to in his or her job, so it is highly unlikely that any production employee handling titanium dioxide powder could ever be exposed to such levels.”

Botwell went on to say that, while exposure to the powder could occur during manufacturing, he pointed to the stringent regulations already in place to protect workers from dust exposure.

“Studies over many years have not found any correlation between workers exposed to titanium dioxide, and the risk of lung cancer. As mentioned above, it is unreasonable to consider any worker will ever be exposed to relevant concentrations.  For this reason, we believe that the existing occupational dust limits are sufficient to tackle the concern, and we therefore do not agree with this classification under CLP.”

Despite the continued pushback from entities such as the BCF, the regulation is slated to take effect Sept. 9, 2021.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Health and safety; Latin America; North America; Regulations; Safety; Titanium dioxide; Z-Continents

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (3/20/2020, 11:53 AM)

Yes, just like with asbestos and silica, the issue raised about TiO2 is not about the chemistry and reactions in the body (i.e. it doesn't result in "knock downs" or immediate toxic effects)....quite the opposite, actually. It is about the small particles that get deep into the lungs that cannot be broken down and removed by typical biological processes. Some of TiO2's chemistry that are beneficial for coatings (stability, low solubility in water and weak acids and bases) actually enhance its resistance to biological elimination in the body. Certainly, if workers are being appropriately protected from the dust, as BCF says, then the change in designation is pretty much cosmetic in practice but can be problematic in public perception...I get that and it's likely the main driver for the push-back. But...the change does highlight the potential seriousness of inhaling the dust. Sand (silica) and asbestos are pretty much inert and non-reactive too...and that's why people develop occupational disease (various forms of lung cancer) from these substances years down the road...the body can't get rid of them, protects itself the best it can and those protections have long-term consequences. There are many ways BCF could get out in front of this and mitigate the PR issues with the change in classification in TiO2...rather than risk becoming a future Johns Manville or R. Grace & Co.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/23/2020, 7:46 AM)

Good summary, Michael.


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