Pharmaceutical/food grade titanium dioxide particles are absorbed into the bloodstream of human volunteers
Background Exposure to persistent engineered nano and micro particles via the oral route is well established. Animal studies have demonstrated that, once ingested, a small proportion of such particles translocate from the gastrointestinal tract to other tissues. Exposure to titanium dioxide is widespread via the oral route, but only one study has provided indirect evidence (total titanium analyses) of absorption into the blood stream in humans. We sought to replicate these observations and to provide additional evidence for particulate uptake.
Findings Human volunteers with normal intestinal permeability were orally administered 100 mg pharmaceutical/food grade titanium dioxide. Blood samples were collected from 0.5 to 10 h post ingestion and analysed for the presence of reflectant bodies (particles) by dark field microscopy, and for total titanium by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Blood film analyses implied early absorption of particles (2 h) with a peak maximum at 6 h following ingestion. The presence of these reflectant particles in blood roughly mirrored the levels of total titanium by ICP-MS, providing good evidence for the latter being a measure of whole particle (titanium dioxide) absorption.
Conclusions This study shows that a fraction of pharmaceutical/food grade titanium dioxide is absorbed systemically by humans following ingestion. It confirms that at least two routes of particle uptake may exist in the human gut- one proximal and one distal. Further work should quantify human exposure and uptake of such persistent particles.