Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Providing Safe Food: Children may have highest exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles

April 16, 2012


Children may have highest exposure
to titanium dioxide nanoparticles.
Credit: iStock.

Summary

Children may be receiving the highest exposure to
nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in candy, which
they eat in amounts much larger than adults,
according to a new study. Published in ACS’ journal,
Environmental Science & Technology
, it provides
the first broadly based information on amounts
of the nanomaterial – a source of concern with
regard to its potential health and environmental
effects – in a wide range of consumer goods.

Today’s finding warns that children may be receiving the highest exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in candy, which they eat in amounts much larger than adults. The research provides the first broadly based information on amounts of the nanomaterial – a source of concern with regard to its potential health and environmental effects – in a wide range of consumer goods.

The study’s authors point out that titanium dioxide is a common additive to many consumer products, from food to paint to cosmetics. The body releases the nanoparticles in feces and urine, sending them to wastewater treatment plants, which cannot prevent the smallest particles from entering lakes and rivers. The research appears in ACS’ journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Here’s the study’s lead author Paul Westerhoff, Ph.D., a researcher at Arizona State University:

“Only one previous study, done a decade ago, reported on titanium dioxide content in a few commercial products. To fill the knowledge gap about the sources of humans’ exposures, we bought and tested food, personal care products, paints and adhesives and measured how much titanium dioxide they contain.”

The group found that children consume more titanium dioxide than adults because sweets like candies, marshmallows and icing are among the products with the highest levels. The paper lists the names of the products tested and their titanium dioxide content.

“We recommend that regulators shift their focus from the type of titanium dioxide used in paints and industrial processes to food-grade particles, because those are much more likely to enter the environment and pose a potential risk to humans and animals.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Sam Lemonick. I’m Caroline Trupp Gil at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

empty
Paul Westerhoff, Ph.D.,
Arizona State University,
Phoenix metropolitan area, Arizona