Parents don’t need another reason to tell their kids that candy isn’t good for them. Nevertheless, here’s one: A new study published in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology has found that children may be getting the highest exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in candy because marshmallows, icing and such contain the highest levels of the chemical.
Titanium dioxide is a “naturally occurring form of titanium” and is used to make some white foods (marshmallows, icing) whiter and also as a food additive and flavor enhanced in foods including nuts, seeds, soups, beer and wine.
As Paul Westerhoff, Ph.D., a professor of sustainable engineering, Arizona State University, and his colleagues write in their study, titanium dioxide is also a common additive in paint and cosmetics. Described as “one of the whitest materials on Earth,” titanium dioxide has high refraction properties. It is used in cosmetics to reflect light away from the skin and in sunscreen, to block the absorption of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. As the study details, titanium dioxide is released as nanoparticles in the feces and urine; these are then sent to wastewater treatment plants, some of which end up in lakes and rivers.
By testing various foods, cosmetics, paints and other products, Westerhoff and the other researchers found how much of the substance people are being exposed to and that
…children consume more titanium dioxide than adults do because sweets like candies, marshmallows and icing are among the products with the highest levels. The paper lists the names of the products tested and their titanium dioxide content. Westerhoff recommends that regulators shift their focus from the type of titanium dioxide used in paints and industrial processes to food-grade particles, because those are much more likely to enter the environment and pose a potential risk to humans and animals.
Needless to say, it is alarming to think that a chemical that is used in paint is also used in innocuous-looking marshmallows (indeed, that titanium dioxide is what is making the marshmallow so white).
Westerhoff’s study is a good motivation to do a thorough read of ingredient labels on the sweet stuff your kids clamor for; to work on — coax — them to eat other treats (I know, easier said than done); to wean ourselves off needing our food items to look a certain way (especially when chemical additives are the reason for such); and, most of all, to encourage the food industry to make candy without high levels of potentially harmful compounds.
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Photo by katerha