Detection of titanium particles in human liver and spleen and possible health implications

M.B. Heringa*, R.J.B. Peters, R.L.A.W. Bleys, M.K. van der Lee, P.C. Tromp, P.C.E. van Kesteren, J.C.H. van Eijkeren, A.K. Undas, A.G. Oomen, H. Bouwmeester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is produced at high volumes and applied in many consumer and food products. Recent toxicokinetic modelling indicated the potential of TiO2 to accumulate in human liver and spleen upon daily oral exposure, which is not routinely investigated in chronic animal studies. A health risk from nanosized TiO2 particle consumption could not be excluded then. Results: Here we show the first quantification of both total titanium (Ti) and TiO2 particles in 15 post-mortem human livers and spleens. These low-level analyses were enabled by the use of fully validated (single particle) inductively coupled plasma high resolution mass spectrometry ((sp)ICP-HRMS) detection methods for total Ti and TiO2 particles. The presence of TiO2 in the particles in tissues was confirmed by Scanning Electron Microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry. Conclusions: These results prove that TiO2 particles are present in human liver and spleen, with ≥24% of nanosize (< 100 nm). The levels are below the doses regarded as safe in animals, but half are above the dose that is deemed safe for liver damage in humans when taking into account several commonly applied uncertainty factors. With these new and unique human data, we remain with the conclusion that health risks due to oral exposure to TiO2 cannot be excluded.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalParticle and Fibre Toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018


  • Human liver
  • Human spleen
  • Nanoparticle
  • Quantification
  • Risk assessment
  • Tissue level
  • Titanium dioxide


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