A common chemical which turns things like food, medicines, toothpastes and paper white could cause type 2 diabetes1, a study has found.
Titanium dioxide is widely used in food and cosmetics2 for its brilliant white properties, but scientists found it crystallises in the pancreas of diabetics. The small study by the University of Texas suggests people without diabetes do not have the chemical in the body, which could point to a groundbreaking link between the condition and everyday objects.
Titanium dioxide is a fine white powdered form of the metal element titanium. The chemical is not thought to occur naturally inside the human body. It is commonly used around the world because it is brilliant white and can be used to colour a huge range of objects. Everyday items which are likely to contain titanium dioxide as a colourant include toothpaste, suncream, makeup3 – in which it is used to brighten the skin, plastics, paper, wall paint, ink and white medicine pills. Researchers say the chemical may enter the human bloodstream if it is inhaled4 or eaten.
Titanium dioxide began to be widely used in the mid-1900s to replace toxic5 lead-based colourings in household items like paint and plastics. Scientists say since the 1960s, around four million tonnes of the chemical have been produced each year and, since the 1970s, cases of type 2 diabetes have quadrupled.
One expert said the use of the white colouring 'could be a factor in the type 2 diabetes epidemic6.'
Now, the scientists in Austin, Texas, suggest the particles may damage the pancreas by provoking an immune response from white blood cells, causing inflammation and which kills healthy cells in the organ.
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