Ever since I began making soap, laundry soap, and other cleaning supplies at home, I have been hearing a variety of information regarding the safety of certain compounds. It is frustrating and confusing to determine what is “safe” and “green” and what I should use in my products.
I will start off by saying, I don’t make my stuff solely because I am green or want to have 100% natural products, though each of these played a role in my choice. The actual biggest factor to my making a lot of my own products is the fact that I can. For some reason, if I can figure out how to make it myself, I hate to buy it. My husband thinks it’s a control issue, so maybe it is, but seriously, if I can make it myself, I will. That goes for soap, clothes, cleaning products, food, etc. Now, I don’t make everything all of the time and if the process is too complicated or expensive it’s a no go.
Anyway, I have been making a lot of bar soaps and have been attempting to make liquid soap. When making bar soap, sometimes I add a variety of colorants to “fancy up” my soap (See previous posts). Not too long ago, I heard there maybe some health concerns related to using titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is a naturally occurring compound. It does need to be refined and process so that we as consumers can use it as a pigment. Titanium dioxide is popular as a pigment due to it’s natural brightness. Now as a pigment it is found in a ton of products besides soap: paint, plastic, paper, ink, food, toothpaste, sunscreen to name just a few.
Titanium dioxide’s use in a variety of industries is widespread and as mentioned before, I recently have been hearing negative comments regarding the use of this compound. I don’t want to make stuff that would be harmful to me and my kids so I of course looked into it. I will relay some of the info I have found, but please research for yourself to determine whether you think titanium dioxide is a dangerous compound.
Knowing how widespread TD’s use is, I was fairly upset to think that, if indeed dangerous, this compound was not being restricted or regulated by the government in some way. I am not always a fan of what our government does, but I like to think that if TD is as dangerous as rumor has it, then something would have to been done about it. (you’d think anyway). I found a study performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) where titanium dioxide was classified as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”( find the study here) Partially carcinogenic? What the heck did that mean? Apparently, this study performed by the IARC was based on studying titanium dioxide dust. When ultra-fine titanium dioxide powdered pigment dust was inhaled by rats they developed respiratory tract cancer. Doesn’t sound good so far, does it?
I read on further I also read that the rats developed a variety of biological problems that lead up to the development of cancer: “Particle deposition, impaired lung clearance, cell injury, fibrosis, mutations, and ultimately cancer.” Which, by the way, cancer occurs due to a mutation in a normal cell of the body the prevents it from growing normally. The biological issues seen in the rats prior to the development of cancer have also been found in people with jobs that expose them to high amounts of titanium dust (i.e. titanium production workers when insufficient dust control measures are in place). After reading (and skimming) the entire IARC article on titanium dioxide, I noticed that in the summary the IARC stated, There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide. But on the flip side, the IARC states, There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide. So, because of these results, titanium dioxide has been classified as a possibly carcinogenic which gives it the rating, group 2B, from the IARC.
Possible carcinogen if I inhale a bunch over an extended period of time? To me, I feel comfortable using it as a coloring agent in my soaps. It’s a wash off product and I don’t use that much of it. I’ll restrain myself from inhaling or ingesting it 🙂 You can make your call as you see fit.
As for borax, that’s another powder keg of controversy and rumor. To start off with, I didn’t find any specific studies yet, and I hate using blog posts and wikipedia as my sources, so I won’t so I’ll just go with what I have learn in science (went to college and graduated with a BS in Biology). Not an expert by a long shot, but I feel comfortable deciding what is best for myself and my family.
What I have noticed is confusion between to completely different compounds borax and boric acid. Borax is an alkaline mineral (pH about 9.5-9.5). Borax is composed of a boron mineral and a salt (sodium tetraborate). Boric acid is a weak acid of boron (pH 5.2). Two different compounds though through different processes with additional compounds one can be used to make the other. Basic info about borax can be found here.
Most negative info I have found by navigating through the National Institutes of Health site and this info was in regards in ingested borax. (And high quantities of ingested borax at that). Borax has (so far) been classified as non-carcinogenic and as a possible skin irritant with some people at certain quantities. Also, borax does not accumulate in the body with repeated use and is not absorbed through the skin. There is a study showing that with the ingestion of high doses of borax, lab mice developed reproductive problems so there is a concern that if ingested at high levels, borax could effect human reproduction, though no human studies have been done to corroborate this and I doubt there will be (who would sign up for that?)
For me, I will use borax for my laundry soap and maybe occasionally in certain liquid soap formulations (where I use about 1% or less). These are all wash off products anyway, and I have no intention of ingesting borax. Any compound or chemical that may be harmful to children or pets I keep up high or locked away.
So the take away from this? Please do your own research and reach your own conclusions. I don’t expect to change anyone’s opinion of either titanium dioxide or borax. I just want people to question everything, learn to research and develop their own opinions. If you see a blog or facebook article commenting on the dangers or benefits or any compound (natural or synthetic, drug, food fad, whatever) please research to determine what is best for you and you family. I find I need to do this. In this day of social media I find a lot of miscellaneous “facts” thrown around and I get frustrated. Frankly, I don’t like other people telling me what to do. I’ll make my own mind up, thank you very much.