Titanium dioxide is a common ingredient found in foods, cosmetics, paints, and more. For an extended period, it was widely regarded as safe for consumption. In recent months, however, statements made by an international agency for research have caused some countries to ban titanium dioxide in foods. This has raised questions on whether titanium dioxide is safe in other products - specifically, tampons.
With fertility concerns and hormonal imbalances rising, it's worth asking if regular, monthly exposure to titanium dioxide found in tampons and pads may shoulder some of the blame. While the compound is not being ingested, blood vessels in the skin do absorb some level of titanium dioxide. Is this a cause for concern?
Keep reading to learn more about titanium dioxide and current research into any links between titanium dioxide and reproductive damage.
What Is Titanium Dioxide?
Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral that forms when titanium reacts with oxygen in the air around us. It creates a white, powdery substance found readily in the environment. Titanium dioxide is found in our earth's crust, often in combination with calcium and iron compounds.
What Is Titanium Dioxide Used For?
Since the approval of titanium dioxide for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1966, this naturally occurring compound has seen extensive use as a food additive. Its white pigment can be used as a natural whitening agent, brightening the appearance of foods such as milk, chewing gum, and candies. It also can help lengthen the shelf life of various foods that would otherwise deteriorate quickly if exposed to ultraviolet rays. Government regulations state that titanium dioxide should not account for more than 1% of the food's weight.
You can find titanium dioxide in many other items other than food. It is frequently found in cosmetic products, toothpaste, and sunscreen. Titanium dioxide is added to paint to make it appear brighter.
Titanium dioxide may also be added to menstrual products, such as pads and tampons, primarily for its potential role as a colorant and to enhance its appearance. They do not significantly impact their performance or functionality in terms of absorbency and comfort.
What Is The Concern With Titanium Dioxide?
In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority declared that titanium dioxide "could no longer be deemed safe" as a food additive. This statement came about because the EFSA could not rule out titanium dioxide as possibly carcinogenic. Reports found that it has some level of "genotoxicity," meaning it can cause DNA damage. As the European Food Safety Authority was unable to determine a safe daily intake level for titanium dioxide, the European Union decided to prohibit the use of titanium dioxide as a food additive.
Currently, the FDA still considers titanium dioxide safe for human consumption, provided it stays within the limits for safe daily intake.
How Much Titanium Dioxide Is In Tampons?
The FDA categorizes period care products, such as tampons and pads, as medical devices. Because of this, manufacturers of period products are not required to list their ingredients, although it is recommended that they do so for market reasons. The largest producers of tampons, such as Tampax, This Is L (in tampon string), have titanium dioxide (also labeled as Pigment White 6) listed as an ingredient. Other brands do not have it listed.
What are The Possible Health Concerns With Titanium Dioxide?
The risks associated with titanium dioxide vary depending on the method of exposure. Titanium dioxide can be ingested, inhaled, and absorbed in many different ways. When added to paints, inhaling titanium dioxide can cause irritation to the respiratory system, for example. While it's possible that titanium dioxide is still safe to consume in small amounts, it's not known if there are any concerns specific to vaginal or vulvar exposure.
In animal studies, titanium dioxide appears to be linked to lung cancer when it is inhaled. This is not a new finding and has led to workplace requirements to meet strict safety standards regarding titanium dioxide inhalation. However, less is known about whether a similar cancer risk exists between titanium dioxide in tampons and ovarian cancer.
While there is not enough research to determine if there is a cancer risk, a small body of evidence suggests that oral titanium dioxide disrupts a person's hormones through animal studies. These studies (Mojtaba Karimipour, Tomoko Komatsu ) show that titanium dioxide exposure can cause reproductive health issues such as ovarian cysts, potential risks of miscarriage, UTIs, and other types of reproductive harm.
What Does This Mean For You?
Given the limited availability of published research on the potential effects and safe titanium dioxide levels, you won't easily find straightforward and definitive guidance on tampon shopping through research alone. What should you consider instead?
Many doctors and gynecologists claim that TiO2 in tampons is safe and that you shouldn't lose sleep over it. There is not enough evidence to suggest whether it is safe or not. So, ultimately, it is your personal decision to decide whether to take a risk or not.
Finding tampons without TiO2 is relatively straightforward. Consumers who are concerned about chemical residues in their period products can limit their exposure by choosing organic tampons and pads, and following the "less is more" approach. Limit tampon brands of choice to those that list their ingredients, and specifically omit TiO2 from that list.
While the FDA does not require brands to disclose this information, you can find brands that do choose to disclose titanium dioxide in tampons. Thankfully, numerous modern period-care brands prioritize transparency in disclosing their ingredient lists. If you are unsure if your favorite brands contain TiO2, do contact the manufacturer. Inquire about their methods for ensuring the safety of their tampons and pads. Seek information regarding their understanding of titanium dioxide and its safety in their products. This approach lets you acquire insights to enable an informed decision that matches your personal preferences and concerns.