EU Commission Agrees to Classify Titanium Dioxide as “Possibly Carcinogenic”

As part of the fourteenth adaptation to technical progress (ATP), the EU Commission has classified powdered titanium dioxide as “possibly carcinogenic upon inhalation.” The Commission made its decision on October 4. Unless the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers raise any objections within the next two months, the changes to the CLP will be published in Annex VI.

According to the new rules, which apply 18 months after the regulation goes into effect, the Annex requires that liquid and solid mixtures that contain 1% or more of titanium dioxide in a particle size of 10 micrometers or less must carry the following warning on the packaging:  

  • Liquids: Warning! Hazardous respirable droplets may be formed when sprayed. Do not breathe spray or mist.
  • Solids: Warning! Hazardous respirable dust may be formed when used. Do not breathe dust. 

Months of wrangling between EU agencies and industry associations preceded the decision. Particularly high was the number of comments, at 489, – most of them related to titanium dioxide – that were submitted at the beginning of the year as part of the public consultation. Nonetheless, the comments did not create any new insights, leaving the decision of the ECHA risk assessment committee (RAC) in place. Accordingly, the text of the law states that the reasons for the decision are valid. 

Critics, such as the German Paint and Printing Ink Association (VDL), put forward that the carcinogeniceffects are not an intrinsic chemical property of titanium dioxide. Instead, it is a general particle effect that exists independently for all dusts. Martin Engelmann, the managing director of the VDL, therefore argued for an EU-wide harmonization of rules for dust values in the workplace.

Titanium dioxide is the most important white pigment on the market. Some 4-5 million tons are manufactured globally every year. Almost 60% function as top coats (German only) in varnishes, paints, and printing inks.

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