Titanium Dioxide as a Whitener for Enzyme-Based Cleaning Products

TIO2

Green Seal has issued new editions of our cleaning product standards with one minor change: We now allow titanium dioxide as an ingredient in enzyme-based products, within certain conditions.

Titanium dioxide is a colorant that is included to whiten and brighten many types of products – from food to paints and personal care products. In enzyme-based cleaning products, like with paints and makeup, consumers show preference for whiter and brighter options and this is why manufacturers see titanium dioxide as a key ingredient.

Titanium dioxide was previously prohibited in all cleaning products because it is classified as a “Group 2B” carcinogen, i.e., “Possibly Carcinogenic” when inhaled1 (and only when inhaled).  Because we’ve seen this ingredient in a wide range of enzyme-based cleaning products, we conducted several health impact analyses and identified a meaningful solution. We developed a set of requirements that ensures that titanium dioxide particles will not become airborne when the product is used. Below we’ve walked through this framework of requirements and summarized our key considerations, but you can find the full technical proposal on our website.

 

Our Open and Transparent Process

As always, we published this proposal for public comment and actively solicited feedback during a six-month period in order to ensure that we heard perspectives from all interested groups. This open process and our evidence-based decision-making is at the core of Green Seal standard development.

 

Green Seal Focuses on What Matters

We take our role seriously as an environmental organization that sets the bar for sustainability and defines meaningful health protections for products and services. We work to advance industries toward healthier, safer, and greener practices, and also to ensure a wide range of certified products so that conscious consumers can have their pick.

In this case, the results of our health impact analyses demonstrated that we could confidently allow manufactures to provide certified products that are formulated with titanium dioxide. With this move, we ensure that these certified products can be just as white and bright as their conventional counterparts while being significantly healthier and greener. It’s a minor change for our standards; this is one of more than 65,000 chemicals that we scrutinize during our certification processes – however, it’s a meaningful change for our product manufacturing community and a reminder that we focus on real-world health and environmental impacts instead of simply checking the boxes.  

 

Protecting the Health of the User

In our proposal, we demonstrated that titanium dioxide can be present in an enzyme-based cleaning product without any risk of the product user inhaling this compound.

  • For foam, gel, and liquid products – the product itself does not become airborne. Therefore, we set no conditions on allowing titanium dioxide as an ingredient.
  • For solid products, dust can be generated by the product that could be inhaled during the use phase. Therefore, in order to include titanium dioxide as an ingredient, the manufacturer must provide evidence that the titanium dioxide particles are bound within the product matrix or to bonded to other product ingredients. This protective requirement aligns with the protections stated by the State of California’s Proposition 65 program, which only considers titanium dioxide carcinogenic when it is airborne and unbound.
  • For liquid products, there is an existing Green Seal requirement that states that enzyme-based cleaning products cannot be sold in spray packaging; therefore, we’ve already set requirements that prevent liquid from becoming airborne via dispersed spray and inhaled by the product user.

Within this framework, Green Seal has maintained a strict level of health protections for product users. As always, when Green Seal appears on a product label, consumers can be confident that these products will work effectively, will protect their family, workers, and our environment – and now, thanks to this revision, these products might be a bit whiter.

 
by Brie Welzer, Standards Program Manager and Environmental Scientist


[1] Classified by the International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC)