Just two years ago, nanotechnology was estimated to be a $10 billion business. Now, financial forecasters predict that within three more years, the nano industry will grow to $1 trillion.
One of the most heavily used nanoparticles in this burgeoning business is titanium dioxide. It is also is one of the most extensively tested manmade creations because its use is rampant as a whitening agent and filler in a rapidly increasing number of foods, paints, coatings, cosmetic, personal care, and other consumer products.
For example, researchers at Arizona State University found TiO2 in hundreds of products including Twinkies and other Hostess baked goods, in various flavors of Kool-Aid, in M&Ms, in Trident and Dentyne gum, and in Mentos Mints, Hershey’s dark chocolate, Cadbury candy and Betty Crocker frostings.
A study released this week in ACS’s journal of Environmental Science & Technology broke down the amount of nano TiO2 found in commonly used products
Food led the list, the study said, with the highest content of TiO2 in candies, sweets and chewing gums.
Some personal care products such as toothpastes and several sunscreens – even some marketed for babies – contained 1 percent to more than 10 percent of TiO2. The study reported that most shampoos, deodorants, and shaving creams contained the lowest levels of titanium.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which can only recommend worker safeguards to OSHA, has strongly suggested that workers use care when they are exposed to nano TiO2.
The Food and Drug Administration has offered little guidance to consumers or the food industry on the presence of the substance in food.
This angers many public health experts because animal studies have show that inhalation, ingestion or absorption of nano TiO2 can cause cell damage, induce emphysema-like lung injury, penetrate the blood-brain barrier, damage the liver and kidney and cause cancer.
There also is growing proof that this man-made nanoparticle of heavy metal presents a threat to the environment. Researchers have found TiO2 is in sunscreen washing off bathers in pools, lakes or other waterways. The weathering of paint can free it into the soil, and passage though the body can release it into sewage treatment systems.
Testing has found that levels of the TiO2 exist even after being treated in sewage systems and as it moves elsewhere in the environment as treated waste discharged to water supplies or applied as biosolids to farmland.