Titanium Dioxide and Titanyl Sulfate

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Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a white pigment that enhances the brightness and opacity of foods, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, over-the-counter medications and many household items (1, 2, 3). The FDA has deemed it safe for human consumption (4). In addition to its use as a food additive, titanium dioxide is also used as a sunblock ingredient due to its ability to reflect UVA and UVB rays. However, some concern exists over the potential for absorption through the skin (5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

TiO2 forms in nature as rutile, ilmenite and anatase (TiO2, TiO3, and TiO4), which differ in their structures based on the arrangement of corner-sharing and edge-sharing octahedra. Rutile is an isostructural mineral with pyrolusite and manganite, while anatase has a more complex structure with edge-sharing octahedra forming three-dimensional frameworks (Figure 2j). These minerals are common in igneous and metamorphic rocks and sedimentary soils where they form by weathering less-resistant, Ti-bearing silicates.

Titanyl sulfate is a white, hygroscopic solid formed by treating titanium dioxide with fuming sulfuric acid and hydrolyzing to a gel of hydrated titanium dioxide. The crystal structure consists of dense polymeric network with tetrahedral sulfur and octahedral titanium centers.

Titanium dioxide is an airborne dust that may be produced during the manufacturing process (Reactions 15) and in some downstream value-chain processing plants. Inhalation of the titanium dioxide dust can lead to bronchitis and lung damage. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established a Permissible Exposure Limit for total titanium dioxide dust exposure (10). Workers are usually limited to this level in the workplace, but it is possible that consumers may be exposed through indirect inhalation such as breathing in the air near a powdered product.

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