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Home > Industry News > Impact of EU decision to Classify Titanium Dioxide as a Suspected Carcinogen by Inhalation

Impact of EU decision to Classify Titanium Dioxide as a Suspected Carcinogen by Inhalation

Impact of EU decision to Classify Titanium Dioxide as a Suspected Carcinogen by Inhalation2020.03.05

On February 18, EU just published the official delegated regulation to classify titanium dioxide as a suspected carcinogen by inhalation. The decision will be applicable as of September 2021. The European coatings industry immediately protested the decision, but they couldn't stop it completely. This EU regulation will definitely bring a great impact to the entire titanium dioxide industry.

China is a large producer of titanium dioxide, coatings, paints, pigments, and so on. With this regulation to be in force, what is the future for so many enterprises of the products in China?

Industry insiders point out that the dispute over the potential risks of titanium dioxide to human health has been going on for 3 years and was originated in France. According to EU regulations on the classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures, a Class 2 decision to classify titanium dioxide as a suspected carcinogen by inhalation was made by the European Commission in October last year and has now officially entered into force. The transition period is until September 2021.

According to reports, the comprehensive output of the 41 full-process titanium dioxide enterprises with normal production conditions in China has reached 3.18 million tons in 2019. The increase was 11.76%. China has become the largest country in the production and consumption of titanium dioxide. However, due to the scattered production capacity and low-end products, the gap between Chinese titanium dioxide enterprises and foreign well-known titanium dioxide companies is still large in terms of management and personnel protection.

Relevant data show that the consumption of the paint and coating industry accounts for 60% of the global titanium dioxide industry sales revenue, another 16% is used for plastics, 14% is used for papermaking, 3% is used for printing inks, and 7% is used for other (including rubber, cosmetics , Medicine, enamel and chemical fiber, etc.). At present, the domestic consumption of titanium dioxide is basically consistent with the global consumption data.

Zhou Lei, Secretary General of the National Chemical Industry Productivity Promotion Center's Titanium White Center, said in an interview with the reporter of China Chemical Industry Daily: First of all, titanium dioxide is a non-toxic white inorganic pigment, and has the best opacity, whiteness and brightness. It is considered as one of the best white pigments with stable chemical properties and performance in the world today. Titanium dioxide are used as inert inorganic compounds for white pigments in many industrial fields, including paints, coatings, printing inks, etc. The production of titanium dioxide has played a key role in providing the necessary product properties of such products, such as whiteness, coverage, gloss, brightness, stability and durability, which cannot be achieved by other pigment raw materials.

Secondly, from the experiments carried out by the European Union, the scientific research behind this conclusion that titanium dioxide is carcinogenic is based on tests on rats. The experiment said that "a large amount of inhalation of titanium dioxide dust leads to significant damage to the particle clearance mechanism of rats' lungs." But experts in the European coatings industry believe that this experiment is unscientific and is a result that does not occur in human lungs. " This effect discovered in rats is not caused by the chemical action of titanium dioxide, but by the simple existence of excessive dust particles in the lung, which causes the chronic inflammation of rat lung cells. " Experimental data show that rats are exposed to titanium dioxide at levels that are about 40 times higher than the highest levels that factory workers may be exposed to in their work. At present, production workers who process titanium dioxide in the industry are unlikely to be exposed to such levels.

Zhou Lei pointed out that although this EU regulation will have some impact to the export business for domestic titanium dioxide enterprises, there is no doubt that it has sounded the alarm to the entire industry and all titanium dioxide enterprises should attach great importance to it.
The future of the entire titanium dioxide industry is to develop products into the mid-to-high-end market. To this end, Zhou Lei suggested that titanium dioxide enterprises should do 3 things. First, during the production of titanium dioxide, it is necessary to pay attention to the personal protection of the front-line operators and develop standards protective regulations to prevent the operators for injuries due to excessive inhalation of titanium dioxide. Second, the degree of enterprise production automation should be increased, especially that the auxiliary machinery should be used as much as possible in the packaging process so as to reduce or avoid manual operations. Thirdly, titanium dioxide enterprises should do their own product application directions and formulate relevant standards to meet their own development requirements.

The Titanium Dioxide Sub-center and the Titanium Dioxide Industry Technology Innovation Alliance are working with relevant standard setting units to prepare and revise related product applications, product standards and production protection standards for upstream and downstream enterprises of titanium dioxide, urging domestic titanium dioxide enterprises and industries to adjust product structure.
Zhou Lei said that in the future, the titanium dioxide sub-center and the titanium dioxide innovation alliance will guide titanium dioxide enterprises to work together to improve the safety protection standards of production line personnel, and formulate and revise relevant protection standards. They shall also work with the titanium dioxide enterprises for the products application evaluation, and work to improve the evaluation of titanium dioxide application evaluation laboratory. Through these related work, we will continuously improve the production and management capabilities of titanium dioxide enterprises. At the same time, we will improve product quality through evaluation of product applications, and strive to make our titanium dioxide products more refined and stronger, and narrow our gap with foreign titanium dioxide enterprises.

Bi Sheng, director of the National Titanium Dioxide Industry Expert Advisory Committee, also believes that this matter will not have any practical impact on China's titanium dioxide industry, because titanium dioxide is a popular multi-purpose product, and it will not take into account the theoretical possible carcinogenic risk.

Yao Hengping, Secretary General of the Titanium Dioxide Industry Branch of the China Coatings Industry Association, believes that this regulation will not have a substantial impact on the production and operation of enterprises in the titanium dioxide industry. Titanium dioxide, as a white pigment with special properties, is widely used in paints, coatings, printing inks, and wallpaper. It is irreplaceable, and titanium dioxide plays a key role in the performance of the above products, such as whiteness, coverage, gloss, brightness, stability, durability, UV resistance, pigment performance, etc. In the foreseeable future, titanium dioxide can’t be replaced by other pigment materials. In addition, titanium dioxide is also used in the production of many other consumer goods, and is used in environmental protection. Its application range is quite extensive, with a global production capacity of more than 6 million tons, and China accounts for more than half. I think that titanium dioxide production enterprises should pay due regard to this regulation, but the normal production and operation of an enterprise need not be affected by it.

General manager of Jiangsu Jinpu Titanium Peng Anjun told reporters that the experiment mainly focused on the effects of fine titanium dioxide dust after inhalation. This regulation applies to global titanium dioxide enterprises, but currently there is no substitute for titanium dioxide in downstream applications. I think there shall not have much impact for the export business. In the later period, it is necessary to make a labeling prompt on the packaging bag, just like the cigarette box indicates that smoking is harmful to health.

Mao Ming, general manager of Qianjiang Fangyuan Titanium Dioxide Co., Ltd believes that this regulation shall have a periodical effect, but it cannot change the status of titanium dioxide as the best white pigment.

Fu Yijiang, deputy secretary-general of the China Titanium Dioxide Industry Branch of the China Coatings Industry Association, believes that there are many problems in the specific implementation of this regulation, and the industry must take certain measures to respond to the specific implementation of the EU. Titanium dioxide is currently an irreplaceable non-toxic white pigment in the world, and it is impossible to disable it, so it is not necessary to render it at this time.

Yan Titan, a titanium industry analyst, believes that the incident has little impact on the titanium dioxide market in China. The reason is that the transition period to September 2021 is more than a year left for our manufacturers and customers to take corresponding measures. Even when it takes into effect, it will only have impact in a short period. Also, only a large amount of inhalation of titanium dioxide particles can damage lung organs and cause carcinogenic risks, which hardly exists in the normal operation and products application process. Also, because no other industrial raw material can completely replace titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide must be used. Moreover, the cost-effective advantages of titanium dioxide from China is very comprehensive, and customers can not refuse in the short term.

Chinese Industry Leaders of titanium dioxide in OKCHEM: 

Hangzhou Ruijiang Chemical Co., Ltd
Guangxi Bluestar Dahua Chemical Co., Ltd.

Related news for titanium dioxide:

EU publishes official regulation on titanium dioxide which disappoints European coatings industry

Facts about titanium dioxide ci 77891 in cosmetics

China's titanium dioxide has become increasingly competitive internationally in the past 10 years

Source: China Chemical News

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