# Why does my coffee creamer have titanium dioxide in it and is it safe?

From the manufacturers website of a coconut french vanilla coffee creamer:

Ingredients: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), DRIED CANE SYRUP, NATURAL FLAVORS, COLORED WITH TITANIUM DIOXIDE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CARRAGEENAN, GUAR GUM.

My guess, from looking at the abstract of the report (which is behind a paywall), "Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles in Food and Personal Care Products" is that the the metal is simply used for the (white) coloring. Is this all it is used for?

From the paper abstract:

... human exposure analysis to $\ce{TiO2}$ through foods identified children as having the highest exposures because $\ce{TiO2}$ content of sweets is higher than other food products, and that a typical exposure for a US adult may be on the order of 1 mg Ti per kilogram body weight per day.

Is there any potential risk (toxicity) to consumption of $\ce{TiO2}$ at these levels?

$\ce{TiO2}$ is is the most widely used white pigment out there, and it is considered to be non toxic. You'll find it used as food coloring commonly in candies, but in this instance it's in your coconut sweetener. Aside from food, it's used as a primary pigment in paint (the more $\ce{TiO2}$ generally the higher the quality of paint, because it results in higher opacity), solar cells, toothpaste, and as you've mentioned, sunscreen.

The only health concerns I found were from inhalation

Titanium dioxide dust, when inhaled, has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans. The findings of the IARC are based on the discovery that high concentrations of pigment-grade (powdered) and ultrafine titanium dioxide dust caused respiratory tract cancer in rats exposed by inhalation and intratracheal instillation. The series of biological events or steps that produce the rat lung cancers have also been seen in people working in dusty environments. Therefore, the observations of cancer in animals were considered, by IARC, as relevant to people doing jobs with exposures to titanium dioxide dust.

• If I recall correctly, the exact same mechanism is why sand is labeled "potentially carcinogenic" by some MSDSses. As long as you're not huffing large amounts of the stuff, the health risk is basically nonexistent. Nov 2, 2014 at 8:56

I just read an article* which says that it depends on whether it contains nanoparticles or not. It seems to affect the microvilli:

chronic exposure diminished the absorptive projections on the surface of intestinal cells called microvilli. With fewer microvilli, the intestinal barrier was weakened, metabolism slowed and some nutrients—iron, zinc, and fatty acids, specifically—were more difficult to absorb. Enzyme functions were negatively affected, while inflammation signals increased.

Reference

• Colloidal particles would be fine for any food additive and such particles are tremendously larger than nanoparticles.
– MaxW
Feb 17, 2017 at 8:19