- A viral TikTok video is spreading misinformation that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer.
- Though some research identified a link between the inhalation of the chemical in mice, there is no evidence that suggests the chemical can cause cancer in humans.
- Health experts say people should not be concerned about the use of titanium dioxide in tampons.
A TikTok video is spreading misinformation claiming that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer.
There is no evidence that titanium dioxide, a naturally-occurring mineral that’s used in many cosmetic products, causes cancer in people.
Some evidence suggests that titanium dioxide could potentially be carcinogenic when inhaled, however, this has only been observed in mice, not people.
“This misconception is a good example of pseudoscience, when something sounds plausible because of some grain of truth but misinterprets actual scientific evidence into something that is not true,” Dr. Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, told Healthline.
Titanium dioxide is a natural mineral found in the Earth’s crust.
It’s commonly used in medications, foods and cosmetic products like mineral sunscreen.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB/GYN and maternal fetal medicine physician, and Director of Perinatal Services/Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, says that titanium dioxide is used as a bleaching agent to make materials whiter.
“Because it’s found in so many everyday products, it’s likely that we are all exposed to titanium dioxide on a regular basis,” says Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicologist and co-medical director of the National Capital Poison Center.
Titanium dioxide recently came into focus after a California-based lawsuit claimed that Skittles, which contain titanium dioxide, are harmful to our health.
The Food and Drug Administration permits the use of titanium dioxide, with some restrictions, for the coloring of foods.
Other areas, including the European Union, have banned the additive due to potential health concerns.
According to Johnson-Arbor, there are no medical studies that address whether titanium dioxide in tampons causes cancer.
Gaither says little is known about the potential risks associated with titanium dioxide due to a lack of data on the chemical.
The Internal Agency for Research on Cancer — an agency that researches the potential cause of cancer — states that titanium dioxide is possibly carcinogenic to humans, Johnson-Arbor added.
This is because animal studies that were conducted on rodents have linked inhalation of titanium dioxide to lung cancer.
However, it is difficult to extrapolate those findings to human cancer cell growth, says Johnson-Arbor.
“Ingestion of (eating) massive amounts of titanium dioxide has shown inflammation in mice, although only at levels that majorly exceed any current human food use, and, again, there is no evidence that this happens in humans,” Marino said.
Johnson-Arbor says most people do not need to be concerned about getting cancer from foods, cosmetic products, or household products that contain titanium dioxide.
Furthermore, TikTok and other social media platforms are not reliable sources of medical information.
If you are concerned about the potential health effects of a certain product or chemical, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional.
“Titanium dioxide is a widely-used, and almost environmentally ubiquitous, mineral that has been well studied, and the evidence does not show that human uses are unsafe,” Marino said.
A viral TikTok video is spreading misinformation that an ingredient occasionally found in tampons — titanium dioxide — can cause cancer.
Though some research identified a link between the inhalation of the chemical in mice, there is no evidence that suggests the chemical can cause cancer in humans.
Health experts say people should not be concerned about the use of titanium dioxide in tampons.