Candy With Titanium Dioxide Really Isn’t So Dandy

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.

Related Care2 Coverage

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There’s Still Lead in Lipstick – Does the FDA Care About Women’s Health?


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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

i was never big on sweets, and now usually just the thought of candy or cookies makes my nose wrinkle up. glad we don't keep this junk in ourhouse

Sarah M.
Sarah M.3 years ago


conen june
JUNE CONEN3 years ago

I have a habit to read the labels and where it is made. Very fussy about these added unknowns, but I am learning!

Bob Etier
Bob Etier3 years ago

What are the effects of titanium dioxide on human beings?

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

Was this ever tested as safe for human consumption?

Mit W.
Mit Wes3 years ago

While we're at it, we should also ban dihydrogen monoxide.

Dihydrogen monoxide:

is called "hydroxyl acid", the substance is the major component of acid rain.
contributes to the "greenhouse effect".
may cause severe burns.
is fatal if inhaled.
contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.
Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
as an industrial solvent and coolant.
in nuclear power plants.
in the production of Styrofoam.
as a fire retardant.
in many forms of cruel animal research.
in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

Joan Mcallister
.3 years ago

There goes my toasted marshmallows!!!

Eco M I A MoonWalk Again

Thanks for the info and postie.

Lona Lee
Lona Lee3 years ago

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Mara C.
Mara Comitas3 years ago

Now we can eat our sunblock. Lovely!