The European Commission (EC) has published a summary of the opinion on the use of titanium dioxide in sunscreens that ‘can be easily understood by non-specialists’. It is a summary of an opinion that was produced by its Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) in July 2013.
The summary states that ‘the SCCS confirmed that the evaluated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, used at a concentration [of] up to 25% as a UV filter in sunscreens, can be considered safe for humans after application on healthy, intact or sunburnt skin’. This assessment ‘is based on current scientific knowledge, which shows that neither titanium dioxide in nano form, or in non-nano form, penetrates through the skin’. It also notes that ‘manufacturers have to respect this limit’, though they are not obliged to inform consumers of the presence of these nanoparticles through labelling.
Nevertheless the summary does caution against the use of nano-TiO2 ‘in applications that would lead to any significant inhalation exposure such as powders or sprayable products’; this is because ‘breathing in nanoparticles can lead to lung toxicity and inflammation’. Furthermore it recommends manufacturers ‘to avoid the use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles that have a substantial photocatalytic effect, or to treat the surface of such nanoparticles properly with a stable and safe coating material’. In order to round out the discussion on the potential hazard, the summary cautions that ‘there is a low risk for skin or eye irritation and skin sensitisation from exposure to these nanomaterials’, and that some studies have shown that ‘if they [the TiO2 nanoparticles] penetrate the body, may cause damage to genetic material of cells’ – this genetic damage is, however, considered to be ‘unlikely to occur with dermal [skin] application’.
Follow this link to read the full summary, and this to read NIA’s reporting on the SCCS opinion on nano-TiO2.