Industry spending millions to avoid warning labels for cancer-linked chemical

The chemical industry is spending millions to stop people finding out about the potential carcinogenic properties of titanium dioxide, a whitening chemical used in a wide range of products including food and sunscreen. 

The Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA) urged EU governments not to classify the substance as a suspected carcinogen, according to a confidential letter obtained by POLITICO. [1]

They asked “for further time to build the scientific basis” to counter the decision, which would require manufacturers to label their products as carcinogenic in order to inform consumers. They also announced the launch of a €14m “science programme” aimed at countering potential restrictions and defending the commercial interests of its members.

The EEB has condemned the letter as an attempt to undermine the evidence-based process of decision making that is supposed to protect people and the environment.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.

Tatiana Santos, a Chemicals Policy Officer at the EEB, said:

Lobbyists are spending millions trying to stop people finding out that something they are breathing or eating may be causing cancer.

We won’t allow the industry to intimidate EU governments and put the health of citizens at risk.

Evidence suggests that titanium dioxide can pose a risk to people. In particular, some nano-particles may be able to penetrate body barriers such as brain or placenta, and accumulate in organs like liver and lungs. [2]

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that titanium dioxide is “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” prompting France to announce a ban of the substance in food this year.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) also concluded that it can potentially cause cancer, albeit only if it’s inhaled, and recommended the introduction of EU-wide warning labels.

EU governments and the European Commission will start discussing the issue on 13 June. [3]



Notes for editors

[1] Lobbyists try to keep whitener’s reputation clean, POLITICO

[2] World Health Organisation, 2010

[3] Agenda of the REACH Committee meeting of 13 June

For more information:

Mauro Anastasio, Communications Officer

+32 2 274 10 87

Industry spending millions to avoid warning labels for cancer-linked chemical
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