What’s the Deal with Titanium Dioxide?
September 15 2020 | Written by Rheanna Summers (She/Her)
Note: Marlow tampons do not contain titanium dioxide. For more information on our ingredients, check out our product pages.
So, you’ve read the title of this week’s blog and you’re thinking to yourself - what on earth is titanium dioxide? And what does it have to do with menstruation and sexual health? Don’t worry, I was wondering the same thing too. You see, prior to writing this blog, I had never heard of titanium dioxide either. And yet, it is found and used in products that are all around us! From toothpaste to select food items, titanium dioxide is used as an additive to enhance the whiteness of a product. Most surprisingly, titanium dioxide has been found to be in tampons that are made by a popular brand known as This is L. Incorporation. Their tampons have now gone viral – and it’s not the good kind of viral either. Together, let’s take a closer look at titanium dioxide to tease apart the good, the bad, and everything in between.
What is Titanium Dioxide?
Titanium dioxide, also referred to as Ti02, is a colour additive used in a variety of different products. As mentioned earlier, Ti02 can commonly be found in products such as sunscreen, skittles, paint, paper, and more. One form that Ti02 can take on is in white powder. This powder is then added to many items to enhance its white pigment and opacity. And yes, titanium dioxide is used in select tampons too.
In early August 2022, titanium dioxide became a hot topic following multiple TikTok videos that went viral. In one video, a woman discusses her use of the L. brand tampons and how she believes the titanium dioxide inside of them had caused her to have numerous health concerns, such as excessive bleeding, ovarian cysts and more. L. Brand has since responded to the accusations, stating that the tampons contain around 0.1% of titanium dioxide and it is within the string portion, not the part that gets inserted. They, along with many other scientists and experts claim that titanium dioxide is safe for humans which is why it is approved for use within the United States. However, it is interesting to note that the European Union has since decided that titanium dioxide is not safe to be used in products and therefore has discontinued the use of it. The European Union banned titanium dioxide as a food additive specifically, stating that they “could not exclude genotoxicity (AKA genetic damage) concerns after consumption of titanium dioxide particles. After oral ingestion, the absorption of titanium dioxide particles is low, however they can accumulate in the body.” I believe this points to the bigger picture that there needs to be more research and consistency of decisions being made surrounding what we put into our bodies.
The Bigger Picture
Given the fact that menstruation products, such as pads and tampons, are considered essential, ensuring that they don’t cause health issues is crucial. By not having cohesion or a united front regarding titanium dioxide, it only allows for more room to interpret whether or not it is safe to be used. Until there is more research done regarding the use of titanium dioxide, it is normal to be apprehensive regarding whether or not you can trust it. As of right now though, there are no studies stating titanium dioxide causes reproductive cancers. While this has the potential to change as more research is conducted, my advice is to just proceed with caution.
Along with a greater need for research surrounding the long-term effects of titanium dioxide, menstruators must also make conscious decisions surrounding what they put into their bodies. For example, there is the long-standing debate of organic vs non-organic tampons and whether one is better than the other. Or tampons versus menstrual cups. These are both examples that garner support on both sides, but ultimately it is up to the consumer to choose their preference. Until more studies are conducted that research these topics, just make the best educated decision that you can.
Making an Educated Decision
The truth is, the risk associated with titanium dioxide is affected by how you consume it. While there’s evidence that titanium dioxide in the air can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, and some studies have suggested a link to lung cancer when inhaled, there’s not a lot of research on it when consumed in other formats.
Right now, there are no studies that actually link titanium dioxide to the risk of ovarian cancer, miscarriages, or UTIs. However, no studies have assessed titanium dioxide’s impact when exposed vaginally.
All of this being said, the bottom line is that the emphasis is on doing our own research and coming to our own conclusions regarding not only titanium dioxide but also things like organic versus non-organic menstruation products. If you’d like to learn more about titanium dioxide, I found this great resource.
Either way, there will always be arguments for either side, but it is what works best for you at the end of the day. Bear in mind as well that there can frequently be a certain level of fear mongering associated with different menstruation products. For example, I hate to break it to you but TikTok is not a reputable source for factual information. Take what you read and see with a grain of salt and then do your own research too. After the TikTok video went viral, more and more menstruators were leaving comments regarding their own stories of how the L. tampon brand had affected them. While their experiences may be 100% valid and correlated with using these products, it can also instil fear and distrust of certain menstruation products when it may not be accurate to begin with.
In this day and age when there are many different period products to choose from, don’t be afraid to try different ones. But don’t forget to read the ingredients first and do some personal research as well. Knowledge is power!