“Titanium dioxide is the naturally occurring compound created when titanium reacts with oxygen within the air,” explains endocrinologist and advisor at reproductive-health firm Natalist Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD. “As an oxide, titanium is present in minerals within the earth’s crust and can be discovered with different components, together with calcium and iron.”
The U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA) accredited titanium dioxide for human consumption in 1966, cementing its presence in a wide range of meals, together with candies and different processed meals. It is primarily used to assist make white meals seem whiter (like milk and sweet) or to elongate the shelf lifetime of meals which might be delicate to UV mild. (The FDA says that producers can have not more than 1 p.c TiO2 in meals.)
Nonetheless, hassle arose for the ingredient in 2021 when the European Meals Security Authority (EFSA) issued a press release that titanium dioxide “may now not be thought of protected” as a meals additive. In its report, the EFSA reported that they could not rule out the likelihood that titanium dioxide prompted injury to DNA (“genotoxicity”)—and thus could not set up a protected degree of day by day consumption. This discovering prompted the European Union to ban TiO2 as a meals additive earlier this 12 months, however within the U.S., the ingredient continues to be thought of to be protected in meals on the limits set by the FDA.
Nonetheless, titanium dioxide is not only a common ingredient in meals. It additionally seems in sunscreen and cosmetics, two classes wherein the ingredient can be usually thought of protected. It is also is usually used to make issues like paint, and most related for our functions, it is used to make pads and tampons seem whiter.
It is unclear precisely what number of manufacturers use TiO2 of their menstrual merchandise. The FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical gadgets, and thus producers of those merchandise are really helpful, however not required, to checklist their elements. (That is slowly altering after New York handed a regulation requiring elements lists on menstrual merchandise bought within the state). That stated, well-known manufacturers like Tampax and L. embody TiO2 of their merchandise, whereas manufacturers like Rael, Cora, and The Honey Pot at present should not have this ingredient of their pads or tampons.
So the million-dollar query: is it protected to have titanium dioxide in pads and tampons? Beneath, Dr. Eyvazzadeh and Erin Flynn, MPH, DNP/FNP, an LGBTQ+ care skilled with contraception startup Favor, share the difficult fact behind this query. Simply keep in mind: In case you have any particular well being issues to weigh, it’s important to achieve out to your gynecologist or major care doctor to make the fitting selection for you.
What are the potential antagonistic well being results of titanium dioxide?
One of many tough issues about titanium dioxide is that it may be consumed in a myriad of how, making danger calculation tough. “The potential dangers of titanium dioxide fluctuate relying on the strategy of publicity,” says Dr. Eyvazzadeh. Inhaling titanium dioxide when you’re portray a room or engaged on a development web site, for instance, could irritate the eyes, nostril, and throat. However there’s not a lot analysis to inform us what the potential results are of TiO2 in sure different codecs, like in case you eat just a little little bit of it in meals, or usually insert small quantities of it in your physique through a tampon for a number of days every month.
“There isn’t any printed analysis out there at present that has examined the impacts of vaginal or vulvar publicity to titanium dioxide.” —Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD
There is some proof to counsel that titanium dioxide could have a carcinogenic impact in some codecs. “[TiO2] could trigger most cancers based mostly on research carried out on animals, and it has been related to lung most cancers when inhaled,” says Dr. Eyvazzadeh, which is why the federal government units limits on publicity for employees. Different human research, nonetheless, haven’t discovered any clear hyperlink between lung most cancers and titanium dioxide. And there truthfully is not a ton of dependable knowledge on the ingredient to assist us draw higher conclusions, argues the authors of this 2011 evaluation.
There’s additionally just a little little bit of proof to counsel that the widespread ingredient could also be an endocrine disruptor, says Flynn—which means it could have an effect on an individual’s hormonal system. “[P]revious research have proven that titanium dioxide could cause alterations to the reproductive system, together with lowering the ovarian follicles and resulting in the formation of ovarian cysts,” she says. Nonetheless, these research had been performed on mice who orally consumed titanium dioxide, so we’ll nonetheless want in depth medical analysis on people earlier than we are able to definitively hyperlink TiO2 with reproductive disruption—or assume these dangers undoubtedly come from different intakes of the ingredient.
As for the potential dangers (or lack thereof!) of utilizing pads and tampons with titanium dioxide…we simply do not know for sure. “There isn’t any printed analysis out there at present that has examined the impacts of vaginal or vulvar publicity to titanium dioxide,” Dr. Eyvazzadeh. “However whereas no research has positively linked titanium dioxide publicity to ovarian most cancers, miscarriages, or UTIs, we additionally don’t have the science to guarantee us that this type of publicity is completely protected both.” This lack of knowledge is extremely irritating, provided that 26 p.c of the worldwide inhabitants are of reproductive age and presumably utilizing pads and tampons on the common to handle their cycles.
What this implies for the titanium dioxide present in menstrual merchandise—and make a aware buying choice subsequent time you top off
As a result of there’s so little conclusive analysis on the potential results of titanium dioxide, you are not going to seek out clear, concise steering for tampon purchasing by learning up. So what do you do as an alternative?
Some specialists say that there is not any must lose sleep over having titanium dioxide in tampons. “If this worries you, then do not use merchandise which have this,” Jennifer Lincoln, MD, shared in a video. “However it’s the dose, it is the route that makes the ‘poison,’ and so simply because one thing would possibly trigger lung most cancers, for instance, does not imply it may trigger a difficulty in a tampon.”
Dr. Eyvazzadeh and Flynn agree that it is okay to strategy the ingredient with warning. “If you happen to really feel uncomfortable with the potential dangers related to titanium dioxide, search for merchandise that don’t embody titanium dioxide on the elements checklist,” says Flynn. “Whereas most beauty merchandise will disclose whether or not or not titanium dioxide is an ingredient—some states require it—you will need to notice that the FDA doesn’t at present require manufacturers to reveal this info.”
Happily, many new wave period-care firms are extraordinarily clear about their elements lists. Consequently, it is not too tough to buy TiO2-free tampons in case you’re involved—and have the monetary means to take action. It is also value being skeptical of any definitive claims that titanium dioxide in tampons is tremendous dangerous. As Dr. Eyvazzadeh factors out, we simply do not know both approach—irrespective of how sure Becky on TikTok appears.
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