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Recent substance classification questioned

The British Coatings Federation (BCF) has raised questions over a recent titanium dioxide classification.

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The BCF says people should not be alarmed by the titanium dioxide classification

An inorganic compound used as a white pigment in printing inks, titanium dioxide helps to provide whiteness, covering power, brightness, stability and durability of colour - which BCF says cannot be achieved with other raw materials.

According to BCF, the printing inks industry is among some of the largest global users of the substance, which it describes as “one of the most important raw materials to the sector”.

Last month, the European Union classified titanium dioxide as a category two suspected carcinogen by inhalation under EU Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of substances and mixtures.

Tom Bowtell, chief executive officer of BCF is sceptical of the classification because of what he calls: “the one scientific study behind the classification”, involved subjecting test rats to high quantities of titanium dioxide dusts.

Bowtell argues that the effect was not caused by the chemistry of the substance itself but just by the presence of a large amount of dust particles in the lungs. He also maintains that the rats were exposed to 40 times the amount of titanium dioxide that a factory worker would come into contact with.

...we believe that the existing occupational dust limits are sufficient to tackle the concern, and we therefore do not agree with this classification under CLP

The concern is that whilst the classification is only for the powder form and does not apply to liquid mixtures of printing inks containing titanium dioxide, there could be knock-on-effects for waste legislation and recycling.

BCF says this could have an impact on UK and EU recycling targets with the classification setting a precedent for the hundreds of other substances with similar properties.

Reassuring the industry over the classification, Bowtell adds: “Exposure to titanium dioxide powder may occur during manufacturing of our members’ products. However, both in the UK, and across the EU, regulations exist that protect workers from dust exposure.

“Studies over many years have not found any correlation between workers exposed to titanium dioxide, and the risk of lung cancer. As mentioned above, it is unreasonable to consider any worker will ever be exposed to relevant concentrations. For this reason, we believe that the existing occupational dust limits are sufficient to tackle the concern, and we therefore do not agree with this classification under CLP.”

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