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What Is Titanium Dioxide And Is It Dangerous?

Titanium dioxide powder

Both titanium dioxide and Red Dye 3 are common chemical compounds in various everyday products, from cosmetics to food items. Their primary functions are as a pigment, providing whiteness and opacity in products. However, their prevalence has raised concerns about their safety and potential health risks, especially in the food industry. In this article, we’ll first delve into what titanium dioxide and Red Dye 3 are, their uses, and then assess whether they pose any dangers to human health.

What is Titanium Dioxide?

Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a naturally occurring oxide of titanium, commonly found in minerals, sands, and rocks. The substance produces a brilliant white color and effectively scatters light, making it a popular pigment in paints, coatings, plastics, papers, cosmetics, and even food products.

Uses of Titanium Dioxide

Paints and Coatings: Titanium dioxide is extensively used in the paint and coating industry due to its opacity and UV-resistant properties. It enhances the brightness and durability of paints and helps protect surfaces from UV radiation.

Cosmetics and Personal Care Products: You can find titanium dioxide in a variety of cosmetics, including sunscreen, foundation, powder, and lip balm. It serves as a UV filter and provides opacity and coverage in makeup products.

Pharmaceuticals: In the pharmaceutical industry, titanium dioxide is used in medications as a coloring agent in pills and tablets, ensuring uniformity and stability.

Food Industry: Titanium dioxide is approved as a food additive in many countries, where it is used as a whitening agent and opacifier in products such as candies, sweets, sauces, and dairy products.

What Foods is Titanium Dioxide In?

Titanium dioxide is in a variety of foods, often serving as a whitening agent or pigment to enhance their appearance. Common examples include: 

  • candies 
  • chewing gum 
  • frosting, icing 
  • powdered sugar 
  • sauces 
  • salad dressings 
  • mayonnaise 
  • dairy products like yogurt and cheese 
  • and certain processed foods 

Non-food items like vitamins, supplements, and medications sometimes contain the substance in the form of coating or coloring. 

What is Red Dye 3?

Red Dye 3, also known as Erythrosine or FD&C Red No. 3, is a synthetic red dye in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. It provides a vibrant red color to products. Candies, baked goods, medications, and personal care items sometimes contain Red Dye 3.

Uses of Red Dye 3

Food Industry: Red Dye 3 is widely used as a food colorant to enhance the appearance of various products such as candies, desserts, beverages, and processed foods.

Pharmaceuticals: In the pharmaceutical industry, Red Dye 3 is used to color medications such as tablets, capsules, and syrups to improve their appearance and aid in identification.

Cosmetics: To achieve shades of pink and red, some cosmetics and personal care products like lipsticks, blushes, and lotions contain Red Dye 3.

The “Skittle Ban”

In 2023, California banned the use of Red Dye 3 in food due to concerns about its potential health risks. Red Dye 3 is an ingredient in Skittles. The decision was based on Proposition 65, which requires businesses to provide warnings about significant exposures to chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. The ban is officially titled the California Food Safety Act and also names three other additives as a concern: brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, and propylparaben. It will go into effect in 2027 in California. 

Regulatory Measures

Regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), continuously monitor and regulate the use of titanium dioxide and Red Dye 3 in various products. Although the FDA has not banned Red Dye 3 yet, California represents ongoing efforts to address potential health risks associated with food additives.

More Questions About Titanium Dioxide or Red Dye No. 3? Call Us!

The Missouri Poison Center can help answer more questions regarding exposure and the use of this substance. Our team of registered nurses and pharmacists is here to help answer your questions. Call us today with your poison question at 1-800-222-1222!

Every month, the Missouri Poison Center posts a new article covering the latest trends and updates on harmful substances. See all Trending Topics.

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