Measurements of Mineral Pigment Particles

One form of mineral or mineral extract, including titanium dioxide, that we should be concerned about is ultrafine or nano particles. As technology has advanced, so has its ability to take normal sized particles of minerals and reduce them to sizes never before imagined. While many are praising this new technology, others are warning of its inherent dangers to our bodies. A study by Churg et. al. at the University of British Columbia in their paper “Induction of Fibrogenic Mediators by Fine and Ultrafine Titanium Dioxide in Rat Tracheal Explants” (1999) found that ultrafine particles of the anatase form of titanium dioxide, which are less than 0.1 microns, are pathogenic or disease causing (see Table 1).

Table 1: Measurements of Mineral Pigment Particles

Particle Size | Measurement
Coarse | Less than 10 microns
Fine | Less than 2.5 microns
Ultrafine (nanoparticles) | Less than 0.1 光觸媒燈管 microns or 100 nanometres


Table 2: Particle Size and Entry into the Human Body

Nanoparticle Size | Entry Point
70 nanometres | Alveolar surface of lung
50 nanometres | Cells
30 nanometres | Central Nervous System
Less than 20 nanometres | No data yet


Kumazawa, et. al. in their study, “Effects of Titanium Ions and Particles on Neutrophil Function and Morphology” concluded that cytotoxicity (danger to the cell) was dependent on the particle size of titanium dioxide. The smaller the particle size, the more toxic it is (see Table 2). This conclusion is relevant to the consumer because of the cosmetics industry’s increasing use of micronized pigments in sunscreens and colour cosmetics. Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide are used in sunscreens because they are colourless at that size and still absorb ultraviolet light. Many cosmetic companies are capitalizing on metal oxide nanoparticles. We have seen, however, that if titanium dioxide particles used to act as a sunscreen are small enough, they can penetrate the cells, leading to photocatalysis within the cell, causing DNA damage after exposure to sunlight (Powell, et. al. 1996) The fear is that this could lead to cancer in the skin. Studies with subjects who applied sunscreens with micronized titanium dioxide daily for 2-4 weeks showed that the skin can absorb microfine particles. These particles were seen in the percutaneous layers of the skin under UV light. Coarse or fine particles of titanium dioxide are safe and effective at deflecting and absorbing UV light, protecting the skin, but consumers should avoid using products with micronized mineral pigments, either in sunscreens or colour cosmetics.