CEPE: Positively promoting TiO2
What are the main goals of the TiO2 Media Task Force?
Tom Bowtell: The TiO2 Media Task Force was started in April last year, to help manage external communication from the paints, coatings and printing ink sectors in anticipation of the decision of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)’s Risk Assessment Committee’s opinion on the French proposal to classify TiO2 as a carcinogen. The group is made up of senior communications experts from CEPE member companies and also from national paint and ink associations in Europe.
What have been your experiences with the public and media handling the topic of titanium dioxide?
Bowtell: It goes without saying that any concerns relating to the potential carcinogenicity of products become a very important issue for both professional and DIY users. After the initial RAC opinion to classify TiO2 as a category 2 carcinogen, a proactive statement to reassure the public and wider stakeholders that paints, coatings and printing inks are safe to use was put together by the task force, and can be found on the internet, for example on the British Coatings Federation website.
So far the media interest has only been from the industry trade press, and it hasn’t been a topic in the wider media arena. Given that the regulators concerns relate to the dust form of TiO2, which is no longer present when bound in a paint, coating or ink matrix, the risks simply aren’t there for the public, so there really isn’t a media story here. However, if you search the internet, most communication about TiO2 is negative. In the main these relate to concerns over safety of TiO2 use as a food additive, and there isn’t a public debate about TiO2 in our products.
What is currently on the agenda for the task force?
Bowtell: At the moment, the TiO2 classification process is going through various European technical committees, and whilst the debate remains at a technical level, it will not receive much media attention. However, there is the potential for wider media attention, particularly if the industry efforts to exempt mixtures such as paints, coatings and inks from classification fail. We continue to monitor media activity on TiO2, and update our statements for workers in member companies, particularly those in paint production where TiO2 dust is handled, and also statements for the wider media.We also continue to support efforts to positively promote TiO2, and there are some good examples where associations have put together websites to explain why TiO2 is safe, and the positive contribution TiO2 makes to the quality, durability and coverage of products, and that it is safe, both to workers in paint factories, and to users. I would refer readers to the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association website, and also the German Coatings Association (VdL) pro TiO2 website .