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QA For Employs about Titanium Dioxide

28 Feb 2020
Questions and Answers for member company employees concerning the classification for titanium dioxide as suspected of causing cancer by inhalation, October 2019

The European Commission has decided to classify a key raw material used in member factories as a category 2 carcinogen by inhalation, a decision which will come into force in mid-2021 if it is passed into law. We, and the whole industry, believe that titanium dioxide is a safe, inert raw material, but that care should be taken when handling dust, to ensure limited exposure to the lungs, as is the case with all raw materials used.

Q 1: What is titanium dioxide?
Answer:
Titanium dioxide is a white pigment with excellent light scattering properties in paints and inks hiding the underlying surface. Besides paints and inks, it finds its applications in industrial applications and consumer goods (and has been for almost 100 years) in products such as plastics, textiles, ceramics, construction materials, cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals. See also https://tdma.info/what-is-titanium-dioxide/ Titanium is the ninth most abundant element in the world and titanium dioxide is the oxide of the metal, which occurs naturally in rocks and ores.

Q 2: Why is titanium dioxide used in paints?
Answer:
As a pigment, titanium dioxide is used in over 90% of paint and ink products, to decorate and to protect surfaces / objects in both consumer and industrial settings. Titanium dioxide has excellent light-scattering properties and is used in a variety of applications to achieve whiteness, covering power, brightness, stability and durability of colour that cannot be achieved with other raw material that require white opacity and brightness.

Q 3: What exactly is the classification about?
Answer:
With this classification the European Commission responds to an observation that the carcinogenic hazard of this substance arises when respirable titanium dioxide dust is inhaled in excessive quantities leading to significant impairment of particle clearance mechanisms in the lungs of rats only. Such effects were observed in a study when the rats were exposed to levels of titanium dioxide that would mean approximately 40 times the maximum a worker might be exposed to in his job.

The exact nature of the regulators’ concern is explained in Note W of the classification, which reads as follows: ‘It has been observed that the carcinogenic hazard of this substance arises when respirable dust is inhaled in quantities leading to significant impairment of particle clearance mechanisms in the lung’.

The classification will only affect products in a powder form, so end users using liquid paints, coatings or inks will not be affected. For powder coatings see further under Q8.

In consideration of applications that may form respirable dust or droplets, the classification furthermore introduces the requirement to label liquid and solid mixtures with warning statements (EUH210, EUH211, EUH212). 2 / 3 For liquid paints, coatings, and printing inks the following warning statement will be required on packaging 18 months after the classification enters into force (estimated mid-2021): EUH211: ‘Warning! Hazardous respirable droplets may be formed when sprayed. Do not breathe spray or mist’.

Q 4: Is the Titanium dioxide in paints and inks harmful to health?
Answer:
No. The powder form of titanium dioxide presents no risk. It is not volatile and consumers and professionals using paint, coatings, printing inks or wallcoverings products cannot be exposed to lung overload of the dust particles of titanium dioxide.

Q 5: Is there any harm when liquid paints with titanium dioxide are sprayed?
Answer:
No, although when spraying, users are advised to use appropriate personal protective equipment, including mask and goggles.

Q 6: When I am using paint for decorating a room or as hobby material on a canvas my hands may come in contact with the paint. Is there a risk associated with this?
Answer:
No. The titanium dioxide in the wet or dry paint on your hand does not represent any risk. Under normal use conditions it is always advised by the supplier to avoid skin contact with the wet paint. Cleaning your hands from spoiled paint (wet or dry) in a timely manner is advised.

Q 7: Is paint safe once applied on walls and doors?
Answer:
Yes. Titanium dioxide is a solid particle that is embedded into a solid polymer layer on the covered surfaces. There is no risk of these particles loosening from the dried film, hence no chance of inhaling or ingesting these particles.

Q 8: Are powder coatings safe to use?
Answer:
Due to the classification of titanium dioxide in powder form the powder coatings containing titanium dioxide will have to be classified in as far as they have particles below the 10 micro-meter threshold. If so, they have to carry a mandatory warning label with the pictogram GHS08 (health hazard), the signal word ‘Warning’ and the hazard statement H351 ‘Suspected of causing cancer’. Powder coatings are only supplied for industrial use, and are safe to use while workers at factories using powder coatings are protected from small particle dust by occupational health legislation across Europe, and applying powder coatings with a dust mask is already normal procedure. 3 / 3

Q 9: The proposed classification is for the dust of the white pigment that is one of the main ingredients used in paints. What about the dust that comes from sanding old paint layers? How dangerous is that?
Answer:
Sanding of an old paint layer creates paint dust; however, it does not result in free titanium dioxide particles. Such sanding dust is a mixture of all the solid ingredients in the paint and are held together by a polymer structure in which the titanium dioxide particles are firmly embedded. As a general precaution one should always protect oneself from the risk of inhaling dust whether that be sanding dust or sawing dust etc. Using respiratory filters (dust masks) is strongly recommended.

Q 10: I heard titanium dioxide gives you cancer. Is it true?
Answer:
No, the category 2 classification means that it is “suspected” of causing cancer, but there is no evidence it does give humans cancer. The ruling is based on studies carried out on rats, where titanium dioxide in its pure powder form was inhaled in excessive quantities over a long period of time, leading to significant impairment of particle clearance mechanisms in the lung of rats. This effect would have occurred with any similar powdery substance – it is a dust effect, and not linked to the chemical properties of titanium dioxide. Workers are already protected to prevent dusts being inhaled in the workplace. Independent research involving over 24,000 employees who handle titanium dioxide on a regular basis demonstrates that there is no elevated risk of lung cancer. We are convinced that using titanium dioxide in the production of paints, coatings and printing inks will not damage your health even if you handle the substance for many years as long as you comply with the health and safety instructions.

Q 11: Which occupational health and safety measures provide the best protection against the potential negative effects from titanium dioxide?
Answer:
First of all, there is clear and strict regulation on fine dust limits to which we comply consistently and responsibly. And we have extensive occupational health and safety measures in place that also include the proper use of respiratory protective devices or regular room ventilation at fixed intervals. Other technical improvements in modern production processes for colours, inks and coatings such as the use of semiclosed systems for feeding titanium dioxide into the system, air suctioning at infeed stations and the use of large containers to minimise the amount of fine dust ensure additional safety.

Q 12: Will the company introduce additional protective measures as a precaution?
Answer:
No, workers handling titanium dioxide will have to use the same personal protective equipment, as when handling other powders, which are already sufficient to ensure limited dust exposure.

Q 13: What measures does a manufacturing facility have to provide protection against adverse health effects from exposure to hazardous substances?
Answer:
Some facilities have closed dosing systems, where there is no exposure to titanium dioxide. In the case of manual handling, production employees are protected by adequate personal protection equipment.

Q 14: I have been working with titanium dioxide for the past 10 years. Today’s strict occupational health and safety measures did not exist in the past. Could my health have been damaged by titanium dioxide exposure over the course of these years?
Answer:
No, experience has shown that titanium dioxide does not damage human health even if people are exposed to the substance for many years. Independent research involving over 24,000 employees who handle titanium dioxide on a regular basis have shown that there is no elevated risk of lung cancer. Experiments where cancer was found were based on tests with rats during which the animals were exposed to unrealistically high amounts of titanium dioxide dust (overload). This prevented the natural clearance system of their lungs to effectively remove the respired dust. The tumours seen in rats result from an excess of fine particles in lungs and not from any toxic nature of the raw material titanium dioxide. Such effects were observed in a study when the rats were exposed to levels of titanium dioxide that would mean approximately 40 times the maximum a worker might be exposed to in his job.

Q 15: Should we take precaution when handling end products?
Answer:
Once titanium dioxide is mixed into paints, coatings, printing inks or other products of daily use, it cannot make its way into the lung as dust. For this reason, there is no exposure during the handling of end products and no precaution is needed.

Q 16: The proposed classification is for the dust of titanium dioxide which is one of the main ingredients used in paints. What about the dust that comes from sanding old paint layers? How dangerous is that?
Answer:
Sanding of an old paint layer creates paint dust; however, it does not result in free titanium dioxide particles. Such sanding dust is a mixture of all solid ingredients in the paint and are held together by a polymer structure in which the titanium dioxide particles are firmly embedded. As a general precaution one should always protect oneself from the risk of inhaling dust whether that be sanding dust or sawing dust etc. Using respiratory filters (dust masks) is strongly recommended.

CEPE is the European Council of the Paint, Printing Ink and Artists’ Colours industry EUPIA is the European Printing Ink Association, a sector group of CEPE EuACA is the European Artists’ colours Association, a sector group of CEPE
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