Titanium Dioxide Professionals Obtain TiO₂'s Classification as a Carcinogen by Inhalation (Temporarily)


The EU Court of justice invalidates the classification of titanium dioxide

New twist in the showdown that has pitted industrialists against health authorities for years regarding the risks of titanium dioxide (TiO₂): the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has just issued a judgment annulling the classification of TiO₂ as a category 2 carcinogen by inhalation. This classification, which entered into force in October 2019 and formalized via regulation 2020/217 of the European Commission, has since been challenged by manufacturers and users of TiO₂ who had filed appeals with the CJEU.

On what grounds did the court render its decision?

In the press release published today, the CJEU summarizes the reasons that led to this judgment with two main arguments: 

  • a lack of "reliability" of the file on which the classification is based (the density of the non-agglomerated primary TiO₂ nanoparticles was considered, but it is higher than the density of the agglomerates, since the agglomeration creates empty spaces, less dense than the TiO₂)
  • and the fact that the substance would not "intrinsically" capable of causing cancer, the danger of carcinogenicity being related not to TiO₂ per se, but more particularly to respirable titanium dioxide powders, containing 1% or more of particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 10 μm (i.e. 10nm).

The CJEU thus wins the case for the defenders of TiO2. A possible appeal could be lodged against the Tribunal's decision, within two months and ten days.

Irony of fate

This annulment is particularly problematic insofar as it allows manufacturers to no longer alert workers when powders contain nanoscale TiO₂, the danger of which has not been ruled out by the CJEU. Yet, manufacturers have been reluctant to provide information on their TiO nanoparticles for years2 to health authorities.

AVICENN's reaction on the spot

AVICENN was asked by news media to comment on this decision:

→ Find the whole sequence on TiO2 of FranceInfo here.

No implications for consumers but end of information for workers?

This decision therefore calls into question the harmonized classification and labeling of titanium dioxide in all its forms, including TiOXNUMX nanomaterials2. If it does not challenge theprohibition of E171 in food (which comes under another regulation), it does, however, put workers' access to information in the hot seat: if they are deprived of information on the potential dangerousness of the product, they will be less able to protect. 

The fact that these manufacturers openly assume that they refuse to inform their employees, despite the risks involved, is edifying.

What data does the Court of Justice of the European Union have to consider that workers who breathe TiO₂ nanoparticles without protection from now on will not develop cancer in the long term?

How to enforce the precautionary principle?

The judgment refers to the lack of reliable and acceptable studies.

But don't the manufacturers have a great deal of responsibility in this state of affairs?

Given the health uncertainties, the precautionary principle must prevail : how can it be applied in practice from now on , if an appeal is not filed or if it is rejected?

What other reactions and what consequences?

VeilleNanos will compile here the different reactions that will follow this decision.
Do not hesitate to send us your contributions to contact@veillenanos.fr

  • On November 23, the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory a lso deplored the weight of lobbies and called on the Commission and the Member States to protect citizens from the dangers of titanium dioxide.
  • On November 28, Catherine Pinchaut, national secretary of CFDTalso reacted in a press release : "What did the industrialists lose with this classification? Much less than what the employees risk for their health. (...) The CFDT asks for more ethics and transparency in the use of nanomaterials and will ask the French government and its European partners to intervene in this direction.

To be continued ...

The classification remains in effect for the time being

Until the beginning of February 2023 the classification remains in force. If an appeal is filed by then*, the classification will remain in effect until the end of the procedure.

* [Editor's note] On February 13, 2023, a communicated of the Ministry of Ecological Transition indicated that the French government has lodged an appeal challenging the decision of the Court of the European Union to cancel the classification of titanium dioxide, on February 8, 2023. The Commission has followed suit, it also appealed the judgment the February 14.
This classification therefore continues to apply “until the end of this new procedure”.

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