Titanium dioxide and YOU!

My mother has always had what she likes to call a “clippings service”. Before the days of computers, email, and Twitter hashtags, people would clip things out of newspapers and magazines that fit your interests and pop them in the good ol’ USPS so that all the important people who are too busy to read newspapers still get their sound bytes. Kind of like Twitter, except that you can ban articles on Justin Beiber from your clippings service and you cannot from Twitter. #spoiledbrats. 


What this says is that I am too busy and important to read the paper myself, so I will pay you to read it for me.

So my mother, the clippings service, sends me the (apparently) busy and important person (said with a great degree of personal irony, I assure you), articles and links she finds interesting and believes I may benefit from or enjoy. 

I frequently do enjoy them. She sent me the article in my previous blog post “Inspiration” about tiny house living. 

Today’s contribution is a truly terrifying website where I could spend many hours. Unfortunately. The State of California has recently released a Safe Cosmetics Act reporting website where users can type in their favorite brands and products and see all the horrible chemicals that are in them and what kind of horrific malformations they may cause in you later in life. 

I spoke in a previous blog post about the two reasons I was pursuing natural hair and body care (less/no packaging and personal health), and this dovetails nicely into that. Today, I will be profiling titanium dioxide, and then in future posts, I will teach you what you can do to take it out of your lives! 

I started typing things into this database (found here), and discovered that most of my favorites, or commercial products that I still use, contained one main ingredient considered toxic: titanium dioxide. This was literally found in EVERYTHING I OWN, from shampoo to my boyfriend’s body wash, to his shave cream, to my all-natural, fluoride-free toothpaste (huh). 

Titanium dioxide…I thought to myself….better do some research on that guy and see what the heck its all about. 

First, I started with the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). You can peruse it if, for you, time grows on trees, but it was uncharacteristically blasé on the subject, so without the usual doomsday predictions, MSDSs make for some pretty dry reading. Really, the only thing that makes them interesting is when they contain lines such as: HIGHLY FLAMMABLE AT ALL TEMPERATURES. DO NOT RELEASE FROM CONTAINER OR YOU WILL DIE, or perhaps LIMITLESS CAUSTIC ABILITIES. JUST LOOKING AT IT WILL CAUSE YOUR EYEBALLS TO MELT FROM YOUR SKULL. 

I might be exaggerating a little, but you get the picture. 

The MSDS did casually mention that there was a proven record of mutagenic effects in lab animals (mutagenic = causing mutations, i.e., cancerous tumors, extra limbs, etc.), and that the powdered form was an upper respiratory irritant. 

Digging a little deeper, I found that California has added titanium dioxide to its Prop 65 list, which requires certain forms of it to be disclosed as possibly carcinogenic (carcinogenic = carcinoma causing, cancer-causing) or mutagenic. 

That’s a little less blasé than the MSDS. 

THEN, I hit pay dirt with the search phrase “titanium dioxide nanoparticles”. Some Japanese researchers, who you can read about here, have proven that titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which are either ingested in food (see below for a list of places these nanoparticles are often used), absorbed through skin contact, or inhaled in things like paint fumes, were transferred to their fetuses, and resulted in brain damage, nervous system damage, and reduced ability to procreate in male offspring. I will spare you the full article, because not even I, science nerd originale, enjoyed it. 

Also very concerning is the fact that titanium dioxide is frequently found in facial moisturizers and anti-aging creams, which often contain penetration enhancers to increase the absorption of the “good stuff” (and consequently titanium dioxide) into your skin. Fine lines orrrrrrrr third eyeball…I think I will go for fine lines for $500, Alex. 

PLACES TITANIUM DIOXIDE ARE FREQUENTLY FOUND (like I said before, every. single. product. I. use. has this stuff)

Shampoos (emulsifier)

Toothpastes (emulsifier and whitener)

Sunscreen (whitener, some skin protection qualities, similar to zinc oxide)

Cosmetics, cosmetics, cosmetics (whitener, opacity producer)

House paints


Those delicious powdery, totally artificial Hostess donuts you buy in the grocery store

Food, food, food (its everywhere….here’s a list of the top ten places its found in food)

Food packaging

I could go on. No, seriously, I could go on for just about ever. It’s one of the most prevalent chemical compounds found in our lives. You probably have some on your body right now. Or in your stomach. 

There doesn’t seem to be any concrete research on bioaccumulation in humans, but there is, sadly, evidence of bioaccumulation of titanium dioxide in aquatic species, like carp, that may inhibit their ability to reproduce. 

What can you do to avoid it (and other toxins the FDA doesn’t mind sneaking into your beauty products and food)? 

Here is my top five list:

1. Eat, whenever humanly possible, only things that you can verify came directly from the soil on organic, non-GMO farms, or from animals sustainably raised and humanely killed. More on this later, but my boyfriend and I are basically flexitarian these days. We eat mostly vegetables and some grains and fruits, and meat only when we can verify its sourcing. 

2. Stay away (far, far away) from packaged foods. This is good for other reasons, too, but shop the perimeter of stores or source your food from places that are concerned about stuff like this. 

3. Make your own beauty products and even cosmetics. My next post is going to be about homemade coconut oil soap, which changed my life, and will include some resources to get you started in this area. 

4. Don’t chew gum. The artificial sweeteners in it are also tragically bad for you. This is a personal choice. I don’t like gum, so it was an easy one for me to make, but nobody is going to judge you, because gum is pretty awesome. 

5. More on this later, too, but vote with your dollars. Buy products that don’t put this stuff on your body. Even the Body Shop and Aveeno, which both market themselves as a healthy, blah blah blah, use titanium dioxide and even parabens in their products. Do your research, be an informed consumer. I suggest this database, too, as a source of terrifying information. 

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